The utility company came onto my land to run power lines. Does the company have a duty to repair the damages it did in the process?

A utility company has a right to travel over the lands of a private land-owner for the purpose of building and maintaining power lines, pipelines, or any other structure necessary for the operation of the utility. This right is granted by the state through the power of eminent domain.  

This right of way is known as an easement. Generally the utility company will pay for the easement, but if the landowner refuses to contract for the easement, the utility company can take the easement through a condemnation proceeding. Regardless of the manner in which the utility company gains the easement, it still has the same rights and duties. 

The utility company has the right to enter land to repair and maintain its lines and structures. This right is limited to such use as will be “reasonably necessary” to achieve these ends. However, if any damages are caused by the negligence of the utility company, the property owner will be able to recover damages from the utility company. In such a case, the landowner will have an action in magistrate court or circuit court to recover the fair market value of the damages. 

If the damage is to a road the utility company has used and damaged, whether you can recover from the utility is unclear because no case law exists on that point. However, the law discussed above should still apply, and the landowner should be able to recover for any damages done. 

For more information, see: Wheeling Elec. Co. v. Gist, 154 W. Va. 69, 173 S.E.2d 336 (1970).