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Death Suit Names Utility

Family is seeking damages from Southern California Edison in accidental electrocution of an O.C. homeowner.

August 19, 2003|David Reyes | Times Staff Writer

John Kincannon was cleaning his pool one day when the Lemon Heights lawyer spotted a palm frond dangling from nearby power lines.

Armed with an aluminum pool skimmer, he swung at the debris -- and accidentally touched the metal pole to the line, receiving a fatal jolt of electricity.

A year later, his widow and three children are seeking general damages from Southern California Edison Co. and others, suggesting that though the homeowner's attempt to knock the branch from the power line was unwise, there is a little bit of John Kincannon in everyone.

"Hindsight, of course is a marvelous thing," said the family's attorney, Wylie A. Aitken. But Kincannon "was only being a good citizen in trying to get rid of this palm frond."

Filed last week in Orange County Superior Court by Kincannon's widow, Francilene, the suit also names Leslie's Swimming Pool Supplies for allegedly failing to provide a warning on its skimmer.

Edison spokesman Tom Boyd said the company has not yet seen the lawsuit but said it has an aggressive program to warn homeowners to contact the company before removing anything from power lines.

"It's tragic what happened to Mr. Kincannon, [but] we're a little surprised that we might be served with a lawsuit," Boyd said.

A lawyer for Phoenix-based Leslie's Pool Supplies declined to comment.

Kincannon, 46, practiced real estate law for an Irvine firm and was regarded as a prominent litigator, Aitken said.

Aitken contends the accident is the kind that could happen to anyone puttering around the backyard pool. The power line was uninsulated yet easily accessible from the ground, while the skimmer had no warning label, he said.

"There's a great deal of information not available to homeowners like Kincannon," Aitken said.

In June, the California Public Utilities Commission fined Edison $576,000 for sloppy maintenance that contributed to 25 accidents involving death, injury and property damage, including the death of a girl, 11, at an Inglewood pool party.

The PUC decision, the result of a nearly two-year investigation, found that the Rosemead utility violated state regulations more than 4,700 times from 1998 to 2000.

The girl's death in July 2000 occurred after she climbed a ladder to a pool slide and touched a drooping electrical wire when she reached the top.

Edison is appealing the fine.

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