This case involves an army private who had participated in a battle, march and firearms training exercise with his platoon at an army range. The exercise ended and the platoon took a break to get water and rest. The Private sat down and leaned his back and head against the outside of a metal latrine. The metal latrine had become energized due to corroded electrical grounding, improper bonding, faulty breakers, and a short in the latrine’s wiring. When the Private came in contact with the latrine, the circuit of the energized latrine became complete and he was fatally electrocuted. Prior to the accident, the Army had contracted with a private electrical contractor to demolish the latrine but the demolition was postponed. The electrical contractor knew of previous problems with several metal latrines at the same range and had completed service orders to repair faulty circuit breakers in latrines at the range 2 years before the accident happened. The electrical contractor’s contract with the Army included many clauses that required him to inspect, repair and maintain the metal latrines at the range. The private’s beneficiaries sued the electrical contractor claiming that he was negligent in not inspecting and repairing the latrine since he was contractually obligated to do this.
Expert Witness Response
Contracts between the US Army and private electrical contractors for servicing and maintaining metal latrines on army ranges usually require the electrical contractor to keep the electrical systems and the structural integrity and safety of the latrines operational 24 hours a day, every day. Under this type of contract, the electrical contractor has a duty to inspect the latrines regularly and may initiate a service order for repair of a latrine if they find there is an electrical malfunction. In this case, the electrical contractor was probably negligent because he had a duty to maintain and inspect all of the latrines on the range and he could have foreseen there could be an electrocution because he knew of several latrines on the range that had prior electrical problems. The electrical contractor in this case was probably negligent because he failed to inspect the latrine as required by his contract and also failed to follow the proper procedure of initiating a service order even though he knew the need for corrective action. In order for the electrical contractor to have fulfilled his duty under the contract, he should have performed a baseline inspection of the range to identify any hazards with the latrines and should have self-initiated a service order to repair the electrical wiring on the latrine.
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