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Mark v. Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

Supreme Court of California
496 P.2d 1276 (1972)


Facts

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) (defendant) maintained a streetlight outside of Calvin Mark’s apartment. Mark and his roommates made several complaints to their landlord, PG&E, and to the city of San Francisco that the light was too bright for sleep even if the shades were drawn. However, the complaints did not result in sufficient dimming of the light. The light pole was reachable from Mark’s apartment window, and Mark’s roommates had unscrewed the light bulb on a number of occasions. The bulb was slightly larger than a typical household bulb, and there was no warning on the pole or bulb indicating that the lamp was high voltage. Each time the bulb was unscrewed, PG&E was called and replaced the bulb. After one such replacement, Mark attempted to unscrew the bulb again, but he inadvertently touched an uninsulated wire that electrocuted him, killing him. Mark’s next of kin (plaintiffs) brought a wrongful-death action against PG&E. There was no evidence in the record that it was common knowledge that streetlights contained high-voltage wires. PG&E claimed that Mark was contributorily negligent. The trial court agreed and granted PG&E’s motion for nonsuit. The plaintiffs appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Burke, J.)

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