Knoxville woman, utility company at odds over damage to home from live power line

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A Knoxville homeowner is wondering who is at fault if utility company equipment fails – the company or the customer – after a live power line fell at her home and she had to pay $10,000 for repairs.

Carol Osborne was away from home on April 9. When she got home, both the power and water were out and there was a lot of other damage. A live electrical line fell and scorched part of her yard.

“According to KUB it was a power surge. I asked what happened. They said a limb fell on your line,” said Osborne.

The line runs from the street to her home. She asked Knoxville Utilities Board about the limb.

“I said, ‘Well I need to take a picture of that limb, so I can file it with my insurance company so they’ll know what happened when I file my claim.’ He said, ‘Let me go back and check.’ He calls me an hour later and says there was no limb. He said it was an actual equipment failure,” she said.

Inside her home, the power surge scorched and blew out her electrical outlets. Her TV set and other electronics were also damaged by the surge.

“When I came home, they also had cut the wires to keep the house, I suppose, from possible fire,” she said.

Outside, the cable box and electrical box were destroyed and had to be replaced. The most expensive repair was replacing the water line to Osborne’s home. When the live wire fell, the surge arched into copper water pipes that supply her home and destroyed the water system.

Because the water connection to her home is one block away, Osborne paid more than $9,000 dollars for the repair.

“When it went into the ground it hit the copper pipe and blew it out at some point. It carried it through the ground,” Osborne said.

KUB says its not responsible for repairing the pipe because they only pay for negligence – not equipment failure.

There’s a brand new power pole across the street from Osborne’s home which was installed in March. She wonders whether the line from that new pole to her home was secured properly. She asked KUB, why on a clear day with little wind a limb could be so destructive. KUB told Osborne it would investigate further.

KUB wrote in a statement to WATE 6 On Your Side that the “claim was denied due to the damage caused by a limb falling on a power line, causing the broken wire to come into contact with the service line in a wooded area of her home.” KUB said “an employee incorrectly used the term ‘equipment failure'” in his conversation with Osborne

KUB also said it “did not cause the damage,” and when it “comes to repairs,” the utility said, “customers are responsible of customer-owned utility infrastructure when damage to that infrastructure is not caused by KUB negligence.”

“It is their equipment. And it caused me $10,000 in expense which they’re not concerned with,” said Osborne.

When the line was broken, lots of water leaked. However, under its leak policy, KUB provided Osborne a credit of several hundred dollars. She said she’s disappointed in KUB’s investigation.

“It’s not my equipment so I think they are responsible,” said Osborne.

KUB said it was unable to identify which specific limb caused the problem as Osborne requested. KUB said the type of damage to Osborne’s home is typically covered by homeowner’s insurance. The utility suggested she file a claim with her provider and KUB offered to speak on her behalf in her claim.

Trees and limbs near a power line can be troublesome. It’s a good idea to have trees trimmed if limbs are too close to the lime. KUB and other utility companies have a tree trimming policy.

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