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Manning v. Public Service Electric and Gas Co.

Decided: December 4, 1959.

BENJAMIN MANNING, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
PUBLIC SERVICE ELECTRIC AND GAS CO., A CORPORATION OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



Price, Sullivan and Foley. The opinion of the court was delivered by Foley, J.A.D.

Foley

In this negligence case plaintiff appeals from a judgment entered in the Law Division on a jury verdict of no cause of action.

On May 24, 1956 plaintiff, a masonry worker in the employ of Puratex Stone Co., was engaged in resurfacing the front of a building situated on the westerly side of Grand Avenue in Palisades Park, New Jersey. The work required him and a co-worker to operate from a scaffold which was suspended at its northerly end by ropes attached to the upper part of the building and at its southerly end was rested on the railing of a fire escape platform. In order to supply these workmen with mortar, two other men mixed it on the ground and then raised it by means of a rope and pulley apparatus. Plaintiff, in reaching for a bucket thus raised, received a severe shock when the bucket came in contact with an adjacent uninsulated high tension wire which was maintained by the defendant. The wire carried approximately 4,000 volts. The shock stunned him and he lost his balance and fell to the ground. Defendant had no knowledge that work was being performed in the vicinity of its high tension wires until after the accident occurred.

The theory of liability advanced by plaintiff was that defendant was negligent (1) in having violated the requirements of the National Electrical Safety Code (hereinafter referred to as the Code) with respect to the installation and maintenance of uninsulated high tension wire, and (2) in having violated a common law duty to exercise a high degree of care to install and maintain the wire in

such manner and at such place as to avoid foreseeable injury to those who themselves were in the exercise of reasonable care. The Code was adopted by the Board of Public Utility Commissioners pursuant to R.S. 48:2-23 and was in force at the time of the accident. Pertinent provisions follow:

"Sec. 23. Clearances.

234. Clearances of Conductors of One Line From Other Conductors and Structures.

C. Clearances from Buildings -- * * *

4. Conductors Passing By Or Over Buildings.

(a) Minimum Clearances. Unguarded or accessible supply conductors carrying voltages in excess of 300 volts between conductors shall not come closer to any building or its attachments (balconies, platforms, etc.) than listed below, except that this rule should not be interpreted as restricting the installation of a trolley contact conductor over the approximate center line of the track it serves

Table 4. Clearances of supply conductors from buildings.

(All voltages are between conductors)

Voltage of supply Horizontal Vertical

conductors clearance clearance

Feet Feet

300 to 8.700 3 8"

In connection with the construction of this regulation section 20, ...


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