Woman Shocked in Shower by Stray Voltage Wins $4 Million Lawsuit. Are You at Risk, Too?

A California woman who sustained repeated electrical shocks while showering won a $4 million lawsuit against her power company Wednesday.

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The ruling against Southern California Edison was a long-awaited end to the saga of Simona Wilson, 34, a single mother of three boys who has suffered from major medical problems as a result of “stray voltage” from a nearby substation, according to reporting in the Easy Reader News of Hermosa Beach, CA.

The power company, which said in a statement it found the verdict “inconsistent with the totality of the evidence presented at trial,” now faces two more lawsuits from residents of the same Redondo Beach neighborhood (which she has since fled). And the details of Wilson’s case alone are enough to seriously jolt anyone who has ever taken a shower.

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For Wilson, her saga began in 2011, when she began to experience nausea, exhaustion and numbness in her limbs after replacing a curiously elevated shower with one built right onto the floor. Turned out her showerhead was electrified, and every time she touched it to make an adjustment, a low level of current ran through her body—the result of what’s known as stray voltage. 

“It’s a phenomenon where an electrical current flows on paths not intended for it to flow on,” Oram Miller, a certified building biology environmental consultant who inspected Wilson’s property, told Yahoo! Shine.

So now we have to worry about electric shocks every time we're shaving our legs? Not so much, according to Miller.  “This is a situation that is quite rare, and the vast majority of people don’t suffer from it,” he said. The case’s takeaway, he added, could be that people become curious about the hazards of electromagnetic fields in the home in general, which are always present due to wiring, and which can disrupt sleep cycles and cause other environmental issues.

J. Derald Morgan, an electric forensic specialist and expert witness based in Missouri also told Shine that cases like Wilson’s were “not very common.” He added that people often incorrectly describe electrical hazards—such as the case in 2004 in which a New York City woman died from electrocution after stepping on a metal plate embedded in the asphalt of her street—as stray voltage. “That is not stray voltage,” he said. “It’s deteriorated wire.”

Still, Wilson seems to not be alone in her electrified-shower plight. In September, a Pound Ridge, NY, couple filed a lawsuit against local utility company NYSEG because, they claimed, their multi-million dollar home, which is next to a substation, was filled with shocks.

“There’s times I go to my sink and there’s a little water on the rim. I might put my arm down on it — whoa!” Millie Mendelson told the New York Post, adding that she only wears rubber-soled shoes in the house. “I don’t feel comfortable taking a shower,” she said. Her husband Harold added, “The lights go on and off in the house all the time. Appliances burn out. My wife and I both have neurological issues.”

NYSEG said the couple’s claims “are false” and insists there’s no stray voltage at all. But the Post found records showing NYSEG has known of the problem for two decades and has tried to fix it by installing voltage blockers near the Mendelsons’ home. The lawsuit, according to Westchester court records, is pending.

Meanwhile, Wilson is cautiously optimistic about her case, which the power company has indicated it may appeal. “It’s a victory," Wilson told Easy Reader News, adding, "they can’t keep putting it under the carpet, like they have been doing.”

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