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Estate of Ayala et al. v. Southern California Edison et al.

Motion for Nonsuit granted in favor of Defense

Chris Faenza

June 24, 2015

Chris Faenza successfully defended Asplundh Tree Expert Company in this Riverside Superior Court wrongful death matter. Defendant Asplundh Tree Expert Co. had contracted to trim trees along power line easements belonging to the power company, So. Cal. Edison. Plaintiff's decedent, a farm worker, was working in an orchard harvesting fruit from trees when his 20-foot aluminum ladder accidentally contacted an Edison high-voltage power line and he was electrocuted.

Plaintiffs, the mother and brother who witnessed the accident of the deceased farm worker, sued several parties including: (1) So. Cal. Edison (the company that owned / controlled the power lines), (2) the company that marketed the fruit picked at the orchard, (3) the company that grew the fruit at the orchard, (4) the company that supplied the labor to the grower and (5) our client, Asplundh, the tree trimming business that was contracted to keep trees along power line easements trimmed so that they were no closer than 18" from the power lines.

The evidence at trial established that our client had no obligation to trim the trees in the orchard since: the trees had not grown to within 18" of the power lines; and no one, including Edison, ever requested that our client trim the trees in the orchard at any time prior to the accident.

At the conclusion of two weeks of trial testimony we argued a motion for non-suit and the judge dismissed the case against our client after deciding that Asplundh had no duty to the plaintiff and could not, as a matter of law, be responsible for the electrocution. Plaintiffs obtained a $4.7 million verdict against some of the remaining defendants.

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