Beijing Resident Killed by Lightning Strike While Answering Phone

February 16, 2006 12:00 am Last Updated: February 16, 2006 12:00 am

TAIPEI – A resident of Kangzhuang Town in Yanqing County was struck and killed instantly by a bolt of lightning while answering his phone. Grief-stricken family members are demanding that China Netcom Group Corporation, their phone service provider, pay compensation.

Hong Kong China News Agency reports that plaintiff Ms. Guo claims her husband Mr. Zhang died when he answered their phone at 8 p.m. on May 30, 2005. Lightning came through the phone line connected to their home in Zhanglaoying Village in Kangzhuang Town of Yanqing County. The phone lines in the village are aerial cables installed by the Beijing branch of China Netcom Group Corporation Limited. The phone line into the home of the victim was not equipped with a lightning inhibitor. The lightning rods installed on the telephone poles within the village do not comply with design regulations. The defendant, the Beijing branch, made serious mistakes during the process of installing phone lines and hanging aerial cables. Therefore, there is a causal connection between the defendant's actions and Zhang's death. Ms. Guo filed a lawsuit with the court demanding the defendant pay medical and funeral expenses, compensation for losses, the necessary living expenses of the deceased's dependents, and the damages for emotional distress. The claim totaled 466,688 yuan (US$57,932).

The defendant offered the defense that the company complied with the national industry regulations for the design and construction of the aerial cables, and that the specifications and installation of lightning inhibitors conformed to the telecommunication standards and qualifications. According to maintenance rules, lightning deflection had been periodically tested following the regulations, and ground resistance requirements were also met. The design specification for the phone line extending into the home of the victim did not specify the installation of lightning inhibitor equipment. On these grounds, the company is denying the plaintiff's appeals.