TORTS: LOUISVILLE GAS & ELECTRIC CO. V. ROBERTSON ESTATE (SC 11/22/2006)

LOUISVILLE GAS & ELECTRIC CO. V. ROBERTSON ESTATE
Torts: Duty of utility for street lights
2005-SC-000188-DG.pdf
PUBLISHED: AFFIRMING; LAMBERT
DATE RENDERED: 11/22/2006

The Supreme Court affirms the CA reversal of the TC grant of SJ, holding that LG&E had a duty to exercise ordinary care in maintaining a street light. The case is remanded to the TC for proceedings to determine LG&E’s negligence, if any, and causation.

LG&E contracted with local government to install and maintain streetlights. A streetlight near a Preston Highway intersection, close to a school and an apartment complex, was not functioning for an extended period of time when a ten-year-old was killed while attempting to cross the highway.

The TC granted summary judgment to LG&E, finding no duty to repair and maintain the street lamp. The CA reversed, relying upon the "undertaker’s doctrine," (those who undertake to render services for the protection of third persons must exercise reasonable care) to establish a duty. The S.Ct. holds that "if a government undertakes, for the purpose of public safety, to improve streets and roadways, it must exercise ordinary care to put and keep them in a reasonably safe condition." S.Ct. remands, stating that, "providing that public safety was the primary purpose of the street lamp," the duty has been established. J. Roach, joined by J. Minton, vehemently dissents citing the increased burden and cost of imposing such a duty.

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