Some folks have been a little bit paranoid about the smart meters that utility companies are using these days. Smart meters are those digital electric meters that wirelessly transmit data about your energy use. Some believe that radiation from the devices can hurt them or their children, or that the new meters would transmit private information.
While most of the rabble-rousing is just that, there actually has been a danger here. The smart meters used by Peco Energy Co. have been blamed for starting fires at two of its customers' homes, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Peco says that 15 of the 186,000 digital meters installed have overheated. Some have even burst into flames.
What rights to consumers have in dealing with any damage?
The Peco smart meter fires could lead to product liability lawsuits. A product liability claim arises when a defective product injures a person or damages property. This can be the fault of a defective design, a manufacturing mistake, or lack of a proper warning.
In a product liability case, fault is easier to prove than in a negligence case, because all that needs to be shown is that the product was defective and that the defect caused damage or injury.
Consumers of a product can sue everyone in the supply chain. The retailer, the manufacturer, and the company itself can all be on the hook until they fight it out and prove which party was really at fault for the defect.
Here, the fact that the meters overheated for no reason and burst into flames in certain circumstances suggests the company that produced them would not be able to defend itself by claiming improper use by customers. However, there could be an argument that the electric company didn't install the meters right.
Whether Peco installed them properly or not would likely not affect a customer's lawsuit against the maker of the meter and the electric company itself. Peco Energy Co. would be wise to settle with customers who experienced fire issues. Peco will also want to quickly determine what's causing the problem before these smart meters really blow up in the company's face.
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