Electricity grid operator liable for overvoltage damage

The plaintiff claims damages against the defendant due to overvoltage damage. The defendant is the operator of a municipal electricity grid and makes it available to electricity producers (feeders) and consumers. For this purpose, it also carries out transformations to another voltage level (low voltage approx. 230 volts).

Following a power failure in the plaintiff's residential area, an overvoltage occurred in his house network, which damaged several electrical appliances and the heating system. The cause of the overvoltage was the interruption of two so-called PEN conductors (PEN = protective earth neutral) near the plaintiff's house, through which his house was connected to the earthing system.

The district court dismissed the claim for compensation for the damage incurred. On the plaintiff's appeal, the Regional Court granted the claim less the deductible of € 500 pursuant to § 11 of the Product Liability Act (ProdHaftG). The VIth Civil Senate of the Federal Supreme Court, which is also responsible for legal disputes regarding claims under the Product Liability Act, ruled in favour of the plaintiff. The appeal of the defendant, which was admitted by the Regional Court, was rejected by the VI Civil Senate of the Federal Supreme Court.

The defendant is liable on the basis of strict (endangering) liability according to § 1 para. 1 ProdHaftG. According to § 2 ProdHaftG, electricity is a product in the sense of this law, in addition to movable property. Due to the overvoltage, the electricity had a defect according to § 3 para. 1 ProdHaftG, which caused the damage to the electrical appliances and the heating, i.e. to the plaintiff's usual consumer appliances. The consumer does not have to expect such excessive voltage fluctuations. According to § 4 para. 1 sentence 1 ProdHaftG, the defendant network operator is also to be regarded as the manufacturer of the defective product electricity. This results from the fact that it carries out transformations to another voltage level, namely the so-called low voltage for the grid connections of final consumers. In this case, the characteristic of the electricity product is changed in a decisive way by the operator of the electricity grid, because it can only be used by the end consumer with the usual consumer devices after the transformation. A defect of the product also existed at the time it was put into circulation (§ 1 para. 2 no. 2 ProdHaftG), because a putting into circulation of the product electricity only occurs with the delivery of the grid operator via the grid connection to the connection user.


Judgment of the BGH of 25 February 2014 - VI ZR 144/13

Lower courts:

Wuppertal Local Court - Judgment of 21 February 2012 - 39 C 291/10

Wuppertal Regional Court - Judgment of 5 March 2013 - 16 S 15/12


Source: Press release of the BGH


Goldberg Attorneys at Law 2014

Attorney at Law Michael Ullrich, LL.M. (Information Law)

Specialist lawyer for information technology law

E-mail: info@goldberg.de