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Trespass: Fiber-Optic Cables Exceeded Electrical Line Easements' Scope

Friday, May 05, 2017

A power company exceeded the scope of its easements to install power lines by installing fiber-optic cables and selling the excess capacity, which resulted in liability for trespass.

Facts: Sho-Me Power Collective is a rural electric cooperative in Missouri. As a utility with the right of condemnation, Sho-Me acquired easements to build and operate an electric transmission line across thousands of parcels. Before 1997, Sho-Me used microwave radio frequencies to communicate with its unattended power stations. But the Federal Communications Commission withdrew its permission for utilities to use those frequencies. Thus, Sho-Me had to find another way to communicate internally among its facilities. It settled on installing fiber-optic cables alongside its existing electrical lines. The cables had capacity beyond what it needed for its internal communications, so it created a subsidiary to sell the excess capacity to the public. That subsidiary currently sells broadband internet services in southern Missouri.

A group of landowners subject to Sho-Me’s easements, including Chase Barfield, sued Sho-Me and its subsidiary for trespass and unjust enrichment. A federal trial court certified the class action against Sho-Me and later entered summary judgment against Sho-Me on liability for both trespass and unjust enrichment. It then held a jury trial on damages, which resulted in an award of $[...]

Next: Zoning: Fraternity Not Protected As Nonconforming---or 'Grandfathered'---Use
 
Prev: Nuisance --- Historical Preservation: Private Person Couldn't Acquire Ownership Of Public, Confederate Monument
 
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