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County of Ventura v. Southern California Edison Co.

Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District, Division Three

May 18, 1948

Civ. No. 15994


 [*531]  [**514]   The trial court's findings in this case are not challenged by appellant, Southern California Edison Company. In substance, the following facts were found to be true. On September 23, 1944, in Orange Canyon, Ventura County, a power transmission line carrying a 66,000 volt current came into contact with a telephone line and telephone pole, thereby causing a fire in the grass beneath the lines which [***2]  spread into and burned over a large area of adjoining ranchland before being brought under control. The Southern California Edison Company owned and operated both the power and telephone lines, the latter running along parallel to and directly beneath the power line. Contact between the two lines came about when the lower south conductor of the power line, which spanned Orchard Canyon between towers over 2,700 feet apart, stretched and sagged in the center so that it touched the telephone wire and pole erected at the highest point on the floor of the canyon midway between the transmission towers and directly under the low point of the span of the transmission line. The trial court found the cause of the fire to be the negligent construction and maintenance of the transmission and telephone lines by the Edison Company.

Plaintiffs, the county of Ventura and the Ventura County Fire Protection District, brought this action to recover from the Edison Company the expenses incurred by plaintiffs in fighting and extinguishing the fire, basing their right of recovery upon the Fire Liability Law (Stats. 1931, p. 1644; 1 Deering's Gen. Laws, 1944, Act 2586.) The case was consolidated for [***3]  purposes of trial with two other actions filed against defendant by persons whose property was damaged by the same fire. Judgment was rendered in favor of all the plaintiffs, but the defendant here appeals only from the judgment in favor of Ventura County and Ventura County Fire Protection District for a sum in excess of $ 2,000.

The following provisions of the Fire Liability Law (Deering's Gen. Laws, 1944, Act 2586) are pertinent to the issues presented: "§ 1. Acts giving rise to liability. Any person who: (1) Personally or through another, and (2) Wilfully, negligently, or in violation of law, commits any of the following acts: (1) Sets fire to, (2) Allows fire to be set to, (3) Allows a fire kindled or attended by him to escape to the property, whether privately or publicly owned, of another, is liable to the owner of such property for the  [*532]  damages thereto caused by such fire. § 2. Escaping fires. Any person who allows any fire burning upon his property to escape to the property, whether privately or publicly owned, of another, without exercising due diligence to control such fire, is liable to the owner of such property for the damages thereto caused by such fire.  [***4]  § 3. Expenses of fighting fires. The expenses of fighting such fires shall be a charge against any person made liable by this act for damages caused thereby. Such charge shall constitute a debt of the person charged and shall be collectible by the party, or by the federal, state, county, or private agency incurring such expenses in the same manner as in the case of an obligation under a contract, expressed or implied."

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85 Cal. App. 2d 529 *; 193 P.2d 512 **; 1948 Cal. App. LEXIS 946 ***

COUNTY OF VENTURA et al., Respondents, v. SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA EDISON COMPANY (a Corporation), Appellant

Subsequent History:  [***1]  Appellant's Petition for a Hearing by the Supreme Court was Denied July 15, 1948.

Prior History: APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Ventura County. Charles F. Blackstock, Judge.

Action to recover expenses incurred by county and county fire protection district in fighting and extinguishing a fire.

Disposition: Affirmed. Judgment for plaintiffs affirmed.


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