Couple sues North Van after dog electrocuted on sidewalk

The owners of a dog electrocuted on a City of North Vancouver sidewalk in 2018 are now suing the city over the dog’s death.

The notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court names the city, as well as FortisBC, its parent company and its subsidiaries, and Cobra Electric Ltd., the city’s contractor.

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According to legal documents, Nanami Ushiroji and Khusro Hamdi purchased a mixed-breed dog in May 2011 and named him Coby.

“Over time … the plaintiffs developed a unique and special relationship and bond with Coby and became emotionally close to Coby,” the claim states.

According to the suit, on Feb. 23, 2018 Ushiroji was walking Coby on his leash on the south side of Carrie Cates Court, outside the loading bay of Lonsdale Quay. During the walk, Coby stepped on a grate that was on top of an electrical junction box “at which point he yelped, jumped up and died as a result of being electrocuted.”

When Ushiroji bent down to touch the dog, she received an electrical shock “throughout her arm” and Coby was stiff. She and a bystander attempted to resuscitate the dog but were unsuccessful.

The RCMP determined the junction box was electrified and “that it ultimately electrocuted Coby.”

But that wasn’t the only time an animal was zapped in that same spot, according to the lawsuit. In early 2017 another dog was electrocuted in the area close to the box. The dog was injured but survived, the claim states. And the night before Coby was killed, another dog was electrocuted in the same area. It also survived.

Ushiroji and Hamidi blame negligent work.

In early 2017, the city granted work permits to FortisBC to do work within the vicinity of the junction box. And shortly before Coby’s electrocution, more work was done to upgrade the street lighting in the general area of the sidewalk. The city was responsible for inspecting and approving that work done near the sidewalk and junction box, the claim asserts.

The city, FortisBC and/or Cobra should have been aware of the danger the junction box presented following the first two incidents, the suit claims, and they took no steps to warn the public of the danger and did not take steps to repair it.

“Each of the defendants’ conduct was reprehensible and outrageous, given the defendants … knew or ought to have known that the junction box was electrified and could have caused foreseeable harm, and it was a real risk to users, including companion animals, on the sidewalk,” the claim states.

Under the Occupiers’ Liability Act, the city has responsibility for the condition of the sidewalk, the claim continues, and the municipality owed the plaintiffs, including Coby, a duty of care.

FortisBC and Cobra Electric also owed them a duty of care but were also negligent in their work, the suit alleges.

As a result of Coby’s electrocution, Ushiroji and Hamidi suffered severe emotional injuries including post-traumatic stress disorder, loss of sleep, anxiety, anguish and loss of enjoyment of life, the claim states. Ushiroji also suffered an injury to her arm, which resulted in medical costs.

Ushiroji and Hamidi are asking the court to award general damages, special damages as well as aggravated, exemplary or punitive damages.

None of their claims have been tested in court.

Cobra Electric, FortisBC and the City of North Vancouver have not yet filed responses to the civil claim. According to city spokeswoman Connie Rabold, the city has not yet been served with the legal documents and, as such, could not provide comment on the claims. Cobra and Fortis declined to comment on the suit.

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