Q: Can a utility company put ALL responsibility on homeowner in case of damage to a shallow buried gas line?
SoCal gas is charging me almost $1,300 for repairing a severed gas line which was burred shallow (~10" instead of 18") in a flower bed and was not otherwise protected. I didn't know I had to call 811 in case of shallow digging, so I didn't. Do cases like https://law.justia.com/cases/oklahoma/supreme-court/1970/42087.html set precedence to dispute this in court (SoCal gas is not taking any responsibility and is refusing to lower the charge below $1200)?
A: I don't know that an Oklahoma Supreme Court decision will help you any in your case, as it is in a different sate, and judges can go one way or another. If there has been no lawsuit filed, you can probably go to your local small claims court and file your own small claims case against So Cal. If you win, they can appeal to superior court. If you lose, you cannot appeal.
An Oklahoma case isn't going to help. However, it appears that SoCal Gas has regulations that a gas line should have 30" minimum cover for new installation on private property. https://www.ladbs.org/docs/default-source/publications/misc-publications/gasserviceguidebook.pdf?sfvrsn=4 ; See p. 26 &27. That may be for a main line. 18" appears to be the standard for service lines, although I couldn't find any statutes, regulations, or Gas Co. literature to make it a requirement.
Regardless, notify your homeowner's insurance. It will defend and indemnify you for any covered damages for which you are liable, up to your policy limit. Your homeowner's insurance may dispute your liability and force the Gas Company to file a Small Claims action against you, or your insurer may pay the claim.
Alternatively, you might be able to hire a plumber to do the repair yourself.
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