A South Australian court has held that a subcontractor was liable in negligence for damaging a power cable while excavating a trench in the case of D&V Services Pty Ltd v SA Power Networks [2018] SASCFC 92. The consequences of cases such as these can be serious, as the damage may not only affect the owner of the cable, but also end-users such as businesses who lose profits due to a power outage.

In this case, D&V had been given a copy of a ‘Dial before You Dig’ plan put together by SA Power that gave a rough indication of the location of power cables. However, this copy did not have the accompanying disclaimer and header sheet that stated the plan was only indicative and that contractors should contact SA Power if they planned to dig within 5 metres of a cable to obtain its exact location. D&V did not dispute that they owed a duty of care to SA Power, but argued that they had not breached this duty. However, the court held that D&V had not taken reasonable precautions to reduce the risk of damage, as the relatively easy task of contacting SA Power was not completed prior to excavation. Therefore, D&V had breached their duty of care and were liable for SA Power’s loss.

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