CITIZENS UTILITIES CO.
FIREMEN'S INS. CO. et al
Rehearing Denied March 11, 1952.
Reversed with directions.
Duane Bird and Thomas L. Hall, of Nogales, for appellant.
Nasib Karam, of Nogales, and Moore & Romley, of Phoenix, for appellees.
De Concini, Justice. Udall, C. J., and Stanford, Phelps and La Prade, JJ., concurring.
De Concini, Justice.
[73 Ariz. 300] Citizens Utilities Company, appellant, defendant below, was sued by appellees, plaintiffs below, for damages to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Sam Capin which was insured by plaintiffs. Plaintiffs took an assignment of the Capins' right to sue under their subrogation agreements with the Capins. The parties will be referred to as they were in the trial court. The term plaintiffs shall also be applicable to the Capins unless otherwise specified.
On September 14, 1946, about 1:30 p. m., the Capins' maid told Mrs. Capin that there was no hot water with which to do the dishes. Mrs. Capin then phoned the
defendant company which supplied the gas for domestic use. Shortly after 3 p. m. an employee of that company, Joe Cordova, arrived at the house to determine why the hot water heater was not functioning.
The hot water heater was located in the basement beneath the house. Cordova entered the kitchen and went through a door off the kitchen leading to stairs into the basement. As he went down the stairs, Mrs. Capin switched on a light. There is a conflict as to just what happened thereafter. Mrs. Capin testified that Cordova went down into the basement and came back out, saying that there was too much gas to work; that he went outside and then returned downstairs. Cordova testified [73 Ariz. 301] that he made but one trip to the basement; that gas was escaping from both the pilot light and the main burner; that he turned them both off and started back up the stairs. In any event, the accumulated gas exploded just as he reached the top step. He was blown through the basement and kitchen doors out into the yard. Mrs. Capin and her small niece, who were in the kitchen, were uninjured.
The evidence established that the basement was a well ventilated place but subject to drafts. The house was built approximately 12 to 18 inches off the ground. There were small windows around the lower portion of the house for ventilating purposes. These were open, allowing air to circulate in this open area under the house. Presumably, due to the extent of damages, this area had filled with gas prior to the explosion. At the time the explosion occurred, the pilot lights were burning on the kitchen stove. The furnace which was in the basement was not in use.
The evidence discloses that the defendant, through its employee, Joe Cordova, had been called to the Capin residence four times in 1946 to ignite the pilot light in the hot water heater. The Capins had been away for a part of the summer and Cordova had turned on the heater and kitchen stove on August 22nd.
Cordova testified that there was a faulty valve in the hot water heater; and that when the pilot light went out, the water cooled and the shut-off valve did not close, thereby allowing the gas to escape through the main burner. He also stated that he had informed Mrs. Capin of this fact and that when she asked him why he did not fix it, he had replied that the ...