Putting an addition on our house in Virginia and we had miss utility
come out and mark. They did and all was fine. Then we hit the power
line running to our house which had not been marked.
The repair people said that they would take care of the relocation
costs and it's better for us that they missed it because they would
have to pay for it. Now I get a call this morning from Dominion
Virginia power suggesting that "since we would have had to move the
line anyway" they are going to be sending us a bill.
Anyone know of the legal issues involved here or any policies regarding
miss utility screwups?
It's like $5k to move and rebury the line...
Just a thought, but in my area, they only mark the portion of the
lines, pipes, whatever owned by the utility. They don't mark your
private lines. don't know if that's your case, but that's how it is
I suspect that is common. Utility line marking responsibility ends at the
meter, regulator, NID, etc.
Private lines include a phone drop "behind" the NID but running to a detached
outbuilding, the line running from the house to a propane/fuel tank, power
lines to a shed, etc.
Some locators (the technician actually spraying the paint) may, if asked
nicely, locate PRIVATE lines, but strictly as a courtesy and definitely OFF
Here in Fl. the utility location folks mark ALL feeds from the pole to
the house interface. You have 1 month to do the job with their guarantee
that if you hit something, you are covered. They pay. After one month,
the deal is off. You pay.
Hehehehe! Perhaps in California after a 6.5 quake. HA! :)
Seriously, all locate tickets have an expiration date. In Nebraska, a locate
ticket is good for 7 days.
Damage to buried infrastructure is an increasingly worrisome problem. I
believe we won't see any more airliners flown into buildings but we will
likely eventually see a terrorist operating a backhoe. <sigh>
I once billed a young, moonlighting electrician for cutting a buried a phone
drop. The poor kid let the locate ticket expire. The fact that the locating
company screwed-up was a non-issue: The locate marks weren't even CLOSE.
(They were on the OTHER side of the house!) The ticket expired, the digger
So if I have all the utility lines marked so that I can figure out where
I want to build an extension, but I can't get work started within the
seven (or however many) days, they'll come and mark everything again
just before work starts? No extra charges for having to mark the same
property more than once in some specified period?
You might want to talk to a lawyer. One could contend that when
considering the addition, you called Miss Utility. Had they marked the
wire correctly, and notified you of a 5k expenditure to move the line,
you may have decided not to build the addition. So their neglect is
costing you 5k.
I respectfully disagree. The cost of moving the line, indeed that the line
needed to be moved AT ALL, should have been determined before ANY dirt was
The original fault lies with the general contractor. Whether he "eats" the
added cost is probably negotiable.
Another fact: The DIGGER is responsible for calling for locates - NOT the
homeowner. Many diggers will attempt (some successfully) to hand-off the
responsibility for calling for locates to the homeowner.
I have never understood that. As a digger, my safety is MY responsibility. I
would NEVER hand-off MY safety to someone else. I would want to be as
confident as possible that all locates have been done.
You can't let yourself be pushed around. Companies know how much
lawyers cost and likely try to get away with this because of it.
Perhaps he can skip the lawyer and take them to small claims court.
Even if he does not get 5k it will cost the utility that much to defend
themselves. Turns the tables a bit.
If the lines were marked properly then he might have known he needed to
move them. But with them marked incorectly, how is he supposed to know?
"Then said I, Wisdom [is] better than strength: nevertheless the poor
If the dig was done during the time of a VALID locate number (7 days
here, different elsewhere), the utility is responsible for the REPAIR.
This sounds right. Repair dispatchers are notorious for promising the sun,
moon and stars to conclude a difficult call. They are NOT in charge of
policies and procedures.
Assuming you were not left "in the dark" following the damage, THOSE repair
charges should be borne by the company that screwed-up. The relocation costs
are yours. I don't see a big issue.
That's a LOT of bux for a move, IMHO. You should ask if there is any portion
of the work that YOU can do (cheaper). They may allow you to open the trench,
place the cable and, after inspection, close it to save some money.
The fact that your home addition project requires that the buried line be
moved doesn't change because someone erred by not locating the original line.
The other utility rate payers should NOT have to bear the cost to move the
line(s) necessary for your project. Good luck!
Why would you need to move the line? According to their rules
https://www.dom.com/customer/pdf/bluebook.pdf You could pour concrete over
the conduit if you wanted to. THEY are responsible all the way to the meter
The court cases I have been involved in RE: Miss Utility Locates and damage
claims by utility companies have always been
ruled by the judge in favor of the contractor who cut the utility when it
was not located properly and the contractor did the work
within the time frame of the location request. If the locator marks it wrong
or neglects to mark a utility line, it is the fault of the
locator contractor for Miss Utility and they are the ones responsible for
costs if incurred depending on their contracts with the utility
Now, as to what you were told by Dominion's repair people, I would contact
Dominion and advise them of what had been told
to you by their repairmen and advise them you will see them in court. Talk
to someone other than a clerk. Ask specifically for a manager
and advise them also as to what you were told by the repair forces on the
job site, You are going to file a complaint with the state regulatory
commission and proceed to do so. With telco complaints if was the FCC.
Let the judge decide if you have to pay the bill or not. Write down all the
information you can as you remember it, who said what, when, get the names
of the repair crew from Dominion if you can, you should be able to get that
information and go from there. You have nothing to loose and
everything to gain. Usually these claims are heard by the judge in front of
their honor's bench, With the judge asking each side what happened and them
presenting their evidence, witness statements, cost statements, etc. In your
case, the repairmen's statements to you.
I would not think a lawyer for this would be much and personally I would go
before the judge without that added expense, but you should do what ever is
comfortable for you.
My experience-- Retired Cable Maintenance Tech Verizon 32 years
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