How many people claim to have a friend who “knows a guy” who has found a way to get free cable television? This is stealing of course, and it’s illegal, but that doesn’t stop people from trying to get it and other utilities for free. In fact, Chesapeake Department of Public Utilities (DPU) workers frequently find people trying to circumvent water meters with rigged systems to steal city water. When they find such a system, part of their job is to disconnect it and reconnect the water meter.

Chesapeake DPU workers had removed 28 of the so-called “straight pipe” systems since June 2013 without incident. Then, on May 28, a DPU employee was electrically shocked by a booby-trapped plastic pipe in the 700 block of Harway Ave. in Chesapeake.



According to The Virginian Pilot, DPU workers first turned off water to the resident’s house on April 2. On May 28, a female worker went to the house and found that the meter was on, so she removed it. Later that day another worker went to the house and removed a garden hose that was configured to tap into city water. It was upon the first worker’s return later that day that she found the plastic pipe and disconnected it, having no idea that when she did two batteries were rigged to shock her.

She required medical treatment from the electrical shock, and on Tuesday the resident was arrested and charged with malicious wounding and theft of services.

I doubt anyone at the Chesapeake DPU could have anticipated that someone would booby-trap their water pipes. Still, this DPU employee suffered an electric shock through no apparent fault of her own while she was doing her job. Electric shock injuries can cause electric burns to nerve endings that can’t be seen. If she hasn’t already, she should consider filing a claim for workers’ compensation.

Generally, workplace injuries are only compensable through workers’ compensation benefits. However, when the injury is caused as a result of another person’s negligent or reckless act, the injured worker may be able to bring a third-party action against the at-fault party in addition to receiving workers’ compensation benefits. There are special rules about paying back workers’ compensation benefits from third-party damages, so an injured worker in this situation should consult a personal injury lawyer who has experience with both electric shock-related injuries and third-party actions. For more information, see this article about injuries from electric shock and compensation through third-party actions.