Editor’s Note: This is an installment in our occasional series, It’s Your Money, that looks more closely at public expenses that taxpayers may not realize they’re being asked to pay.

A freak accident that killed a man who touched a streetlight will cost Honolulu taxpayers $550,000.

In 2009, 42-year-old Michael Perron, of Honolulu, was electrocuted on the sidewalk near Kapiolani Boulevard and University Avenue.

Perron was walking on the sidewalk when he stepped on a charged metal electrical junction box cover and then put his hand on a streetlight. The current rushed through his body, killing him.

Perron’s mother and two daughters sued the city in 2011, saying it was negligent and therefore liable. The family asked for $2.5 million, claiming emotional distress and lost wages.

According to court records, engineers discovered that there were wires in the streetlight junction box that were not grounded. These boxes can be identified by their rectangular metal covers that are found embedded on sidewalks throughout the city.

While it would appear that these sorts of accidents are rare, Honolulu Star-Bulletin reporter Gene Park reported at the time that there had been 200 electrocution cases across the U.S. and Canada over a two-decade span.

Park also cited the death of a college student in New York City that resulted in a $6.2 million settlement and citywide inspections.

The city and county of Honolulu initially denied any blame in Perron’s death. In court documents the city said Perron “acted with poor judgement and a lack of due care at the time of the incident.” The city also said Perron had been drinking at the time of the accident.

But as both sides were preparing to go to trial — which was set for this month — the Honolulu City Council approved a $550,000 settlement with Perron’s family.

That decision was made Oct. 9 in executive session, which is closed to the public. A report about that decision was on the council agenda this week.

Read that report here:

You can read the original complaint here:

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