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Thread: HELP!! Who is liable for electrical fault

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    Smile HELP!! Who is liable for electrical fault

    Hi
    Wonder if anyone can shed some light on this?
    I lease my business premises from an easy-going landlord. I recently expanded and had a db board installed in part of the building i took over, and brought in a sub-lessee, feeding the sub-lessee and my own equipment from the new board (which takes power directly from the building main board.) This work was done by a millwright with a wireman's license, so everything was above board and hunky-dory.
    Nine months done the line we had a small short which tripped the earth on our "sub-board" and cuased power spikes and the dropping of phases (everything is 3 phase), also irreparably damaging the isolator.
    We called an electrician in (unfortunately the chap that did the original installation was not available) and after much fooling around, power on-off, phases out etc, he eventually figured out that the main cuase of the problem was not at all related to the new db board but a problem on the existing building's db board. (which he is currently correcting while refitting new cable and isolator into our db board.)

    The problem is that during the period where the power came on-off, phases were dropped etc, the sub-lessee had 3 electrical/electrominc machines damaged. He claims that the spiking/phase dropping "burnt" the main computer board within these thre machines and now want either the electrician or me to pay for the damage (totals R70,000.00)

    As far as I can work out, aside from the fact that he has no surge protectors in-line (which I'm given to understand is mandatory as far as most insurance companies are concerned) and his own connections (a warren of multiplugs and extension cords), the whole problem, including the initial short (cuasing the damage to our board, was caused by the existing flaw in the building's db board, a flaw which only really became apparent on serious investigation by the current electrician.

    How can i, or for that matter, the electrician and even my landlord, be held liable? I mean to me, it's a bit like trying to predict a meteor falling on your head - how's anybody supposed to know when a problem is going to come out on a peice of wiring??

    Surely he can't make any of us pay for damage?

    Anybody with some input would be greatly apreciated, either thru this forum or to my mail address - michael@templerind.co.za

    Thanks!!
    Last edited by Dave A; 07-Oct-09 at 01:36 PM.

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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    Time to start digging out the certificates of compliance, I think.
    Not so much because the electrician may be liable, but for your own CYA.

    This bit got me curious:
    Quote Originally Posted by TemplerML View Post
    Nine months done the line we had a small short which tripped the earth on our "sub-board" and cuased power spikes and the dropping of phases (everything is 3 phase)
    When you say "tripped the earth" do you mean the earth leakage protection?
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

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    um, bear in mind i'm truely ignorant and working on what I'm told by the electrician, but I yes, the earth leakage was tripped.

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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    Thanks.
    Quote Originally Posted by TemplerML View Post
    How can i, or for that matter, the electrician and even my landlord, be held liable?
    By my understanding, the would-be claimant has to prove negligence - at least at the moment. Once the Consumer Protection Act kicks in, it's going to be a whole new ball game.

    The other legal kink that can arise in situations like these arises from contract law. If, for example:
    • the problem arose from negligence by an electrician,
    • the electrician's contract to perform the service was with the owner of the property,
    • it was the tenant that suffered damage,

    the tenant would have to establish a duty of care before he/she could pursue the electrician for damages directly.

    From your point of view I'd suggest as long as you have got certificates of compliance for the electrical installation (including all alterations thereto) and haven't tampered with the installation since, you're probably off the hook. If I was in your sub-tenant's shoes and you didn't have a certificate of compliance, I'd argue that as negligent.

    However, many commercial lease agreements place the responsibility for getting and maintaining a valid electrical COC on the tenant. I'm not sure that it's an industry standard, but that is certainly what the "big boys" in the game seem to be doing.
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

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    AH!

    Hi
    Thank you for your input - you pretty much confirmed what I figured in that he would have to prove negligence on our part (which he can't) but also that he took "reasonable care". I term reasonable care in much the same way as an insurance company might in that he failed to ensure that he had surge arrestors/protectors in his connection line anyway.
    It turns out that he also failed to insure the machines, which is why he was hoping I'd fold and pay for them!!

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    Gold Member Sparks's Avatar
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    Smile My tuppence worth?

    If I had a 3ph machine it would comply with SABS or today's SANS and have protection against phase failure. Had I also had sensitive electronic equipment I would have it running off an inverter. I reckon a "reasonable" person with "reasonable" savvy would be beter off than a skinflint or chancer.

    If you look for trouble you cannot expect the law to look after you.

    Hope this helps

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    Dave A (15-Dec-09)

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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparks View Post
    I reckon a "reasonable" person with "reasonable" savvy would be beter off than a skinflint or chancer.

    If you look for trouble you cannot expect the law to look after you.
    For the time being at least. The new Consumer Protection Act will no doubt have these characters trying to classify themselves as "ignorant innocents" as opposed to "cheap."
    Last edited by Dave A; 15-Dec-09 at 03:28 PM.
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

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    i believe a min. of 10 % should be spent on protection devices for electronic equipment.

    i visited the dentist a while back and he was showing off with all his new equipment telling me the cost R200 000 +...my first question was how much of was spent on protection...R200 thats it...well if i where an insurance company i wouldnt even consider insurance cover...it would be too high risk...i would insist on a stabilised power supply being the min. requirement... with surge protection in the DB and at the plug.

    power supplies in SA are too unstable not to have some sort of protection.

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    Diamond Member AndyD's Avatar
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    I agree that the onus is on the owner of the equipment to install appropriate protection for any equipment he installs. Usually a good UPS will cover most bases for electronics. All to often protection is an after thought that doesn't have a budget so corners get cut.

    Equipment suppliers don't help either though, their minimum protection requirements are often tucked away in the fine print of the Warranty terms and conditions. I assume they do this to reduce the perceived cost of their equipment to a potential buyer.

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    Gold Member Sparks's Avatar
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    At the end of the day

    At the end of the day it boils down to the consumer opting for an accredited Sparky with a good reputation rather than the cheapest he can find. Protection is required by the regulations. I have turned down a lot of rewires requested purely because of the age of the installation. Insulation readings are better on some old installations than on a new roll of T&E. I sleep like a log because I know my work has made someone's home safer for their kids.

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