12 On Your Side: Power surge damage

By Diane Walker - bio | email

Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - How do you fight a utility company and win, when it appears, you might get stuck with paying for damages that are not your fault? A local family called 12 on Your Side, after a power surge damaged the house they're renting.

They questioned the reasoning, the power company gave, for refusing to pay. We talked with Dominion Virginia Power, a short time ago. It's telling us now, that customer service gave the family wrong information.

Dominion Power is expediting the claim and is willing to negotiate. Before, the family says, Dominion Power blamed the surge on an "Act of God" and refused to pay.

"It was the loudest sound I ever heard in my life. I thought a truck ran into the house. We jumped out of bed," said Karen Gayle.

The power surge shook the Gayle family home, early Friday morning while everyone was sleeping.

"Fire was coming out of the ceiling fan, out of the sockets," said Michael Gayle.

"It looked like strobe lights were flashing through the bedroom," said Karen.

An electrician told Michael, the timing may have saved their lives.

"If we had been washing our hands (or) taking a bath, it could have electrocuted whoever was doing it," said Michael.

The surge severed the top of a utility pole, and dropped a power line in the yard. Michael and Karen say 19,000 volts of electricity, shot into their rental home, melting surge protectors, the meter and circuit breaker. The landlord is having to rewire the house.

Before 12 got involved, Michael says Dominion power told him it would not pay. He says, workers told his neighbors, something different.

"They told them that it was their fault but, a superintendent told me, that it was an 'act of god'," said Michael.

The Gayles say the utility was trying to avoid a payout, by blaming a catastrophe out of its control.

They blame Dominion Virginia Power crews working to replace a damaged pole after a car accident. When the company changed out poles, 568 customers, along Newsby Bridge Road, lost electricity and the Gayles got a power surge.

"The act of god was the fact that it did not go up in flames," Karen said.

Dominion Virginia Power says there was confusion because the Gayles were talking with customer service and not the claims department.

It did not address the car accident and says the power surge was caused by an insulator that caught fire, causing the utility pole to break.

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