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Premises Liability & Electrical Injuries

Premises Liability & Electrical Injuries

I. Injuries in Real Life

North Carolina has a history of famous movies being made, since the 1950s, all over the state. You may especially remember the made-in-North Carolina 1990s cult film, starring Brandon Lee. The Crow is famous for a variety of good reasons; not only was it eventually billed as a fairly great classic, but also because of some mishaps that dogged the production. Brandon Lee himself died on the set of the movie. Memorably enough on its own, the movie caused a unique premises liability case, that led a premises liability law firm to represent an injured person in front of the Supreme Court of North Carolina itself.

Some accidents actually have their roots or antecedents, from years or even decades, of events long before the actual injury. These antecedents are often a complicated storyboard of construction and revision, reconstruction, excavation and revamping of property. With questions about control and improvements to property or premises, it’s often crucial that you work only with an experienced Charlotte premises liability law firm or lawyer to ascertain what has caused a dangerous condition to arise.

II.  Something to Crow About

Since 1984, the North Carolina Film Corporation had gradually purchased, and then steadily improved, its motion picture studio in Wilmington. It started out as a rough idea, and then advanced into a still fairly simple 32-acre site. The one building that comprised the studio eventually greatly expanded. As the years rolled by, several stages and even a backlot were constructed to accommodate outdoor shoots. With the studio site’s steady climb to success, they hired a fulltime engineer named Gerald W.

Gerald was hired to help build out the facilities: including the design for an electrical distribution system. Gerald had given the North Carolina Film Corporation (as a North Carolina premises liability lawyer later established) several options. These options covered a wide variety of wiring and power supply choices, usually, but not always, based on costs. Carolina Power and Light, the electricity supplier, was expected to pass whatever varying costs were tailored for the site onto the film corporation.  One key decision was to bury or leave exposed the power lines. This was to be a crucial distinction, given that the option was to leave the lines exposed “for aesthetic reasons” rather than any safety considerations.

III.   Building Reality: False Fronts and Safety

The reason for the accident, after almost a decade of safe use, began because of the hurry up production pace on the property. And, the site had been very successful. A recent success was having hosted the successful filming of the mega hit, Mario Brothers. In the weeks before the accident involving the electric line, the lot was described as “incredibly busy.” Under construction for shooting was a church and cemetery. At least ten new power poles had been installed for The Crow. But the power company itself was not the one who decided exactly where the poles would be. This was where the premises liability lawyer showed just how involved the land’s property owner was. The poles were marked to exacting detail, and the key factor: how they might appear on film. To streamline the aesthetic challenges, some of these poles were within 1 to 2 feet of live powerlines. The remaining poles were still close…within 5 to 10 feet of existing powerlines.

The injured worker never did regain a memory of how the accident happened. Instead, the Charlotte premises liability lawyer reconstructed the events from a series of witnesses and Gerald. Generally, a boom had been lifted up slightly, to secure a door section on the side. The worker walked by the poles, came to the prop door, and then began to back out of the door: that’s when he made must have made contact with the powerlines. No one saw it happen, but they certainly heard it. Sparks and explosion, as the worker then staggered and was lifted through the stage door by the blast. After hearing the explosion, the crew quickly ran over to find the man, slumped over the boom’s controls and on fire.

IV.  Left Holding the Wires: Landlords, Lines, and Law

The premises liability law firm knew that this case, seeking damages against the property owner, was going to be challenging for the Supreme Court judges. The reason was because powerlines are usually not the responsibility of the landowner. The issues about who controlled the original decisions about how the powerlines would be covered or left exposed was so important.

The premises liability lawyer in this case stressed that there were very few cases dealing with land ownership as a type of “insurance.” Yet, the question really caused deep analysis on the risks and duties of how electric power is provided. The premises liability lawyer stressed that in this particular case, the landowner actually was very active in how the construction site dealt with power supplies at every level. In fact, much of the entire utility of the land was based upon the landowner’s having control over the power supply, poles, and whether covered or buried.

The key facts in so many premises liability cases really have to do with control over the property. This case was especially unique in that this related specifically to filmmaking, with its own unique industry practices. It’s conceivable that other similar companies that rely on power, and help maintain the way power is used or controlled on the property, might reach a similar result. The Charlotte premises liability lawyer in this case pointed the records showing that there were actually licensing agreements between the landowner and the film development project for The Crow. Most crucially, one of those written agreements even specifically “Warranted to CrowVision that the premises were safe.”

Additionally, the premises liability lawyer discovered that there were items in the so-called “bone yard” (cast off materials that everyone used in common). These items, basic to how sets were made and supported, were supposed to have required the consent of the landowner’s property manager. All of this helped establish the argument by the Charlotte premises liability lawyer that the landowner was much more than a “mere landlord to CrowVision.” 


This case shows just how important it is to have an experienced Charlotte premises liability lawyer working for you. The standard of care on property necessarily varies from one type of business or property to another. As the Supreme Court agreed, different types of businesses and different types of activities will involve different risks to people to come on the property. Different conditions and surroundings, whether on a movie set or not, will help define what’s normal or proper conduct and safety standards.

Because of the work of Charlotte premises liability lawyers, North Carolina has developed a more unique standard for the standard of care. In this state, a landowner often has special duties for all people coming onto their property. Whereas most states have a distinction between so-called invitees and licensees, North Carolina applies a more practical standard. To be successful, a premises liability lawyer researches that there’s an obligation by a landowner to anyone entering on the land, and that the property owner did or did not “exercise reasonable care in the maintenance” of that property. As long the person is there lawfully, the property owner will probably have some duty to protect them. In this case, the movie set was a special challenge, but eventually established a special duty regarding electric lines as well. If you, a family member or a loved one have been hurt in an accident related to poor design or construction, perhaps involving utilities or other special hazards, please contact us.  You will speak with a premises liability attorney/ lawyer who can best answer your questions.  There is never a fee for this initial consultation.

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