A Pennsylvania family lost a family member in 2009. Carrie Goretzka died when a spliced power line landed on her while she was in her yard; she was burned and electrocuted, and later died from her extensive injuries. Her family sued West Penn Power, and won $109 million for personal injury and another $61 million in punitive damages.
“The payout was the largest for Pennsylvania,” noted John Hale, Waxahachie personal injury attorney.
While the trial ran three weeks, the jury took a mere 90 minutes to agree that employees of West Penn Power were improperly trained to work on the lines, which is why a spliced power line was not properly secured and was able to fall into Goretzka’s yard. Ms. Goretzka was outside making a phone call when she spotted one or more trees on fire in her yard due to the overheated power line. She turned off the power to the house and went back out to check on the fire when the line fell on her.
The attorney for West Penn claimed that Ms. Goretzka placed herself in harm’s way by standing below the line. According to the family, another resident of the home, Mr. Goretzka, called West Penn Power in 2003 and again in 2004 to report fallen power lines in his backyard. It was those same power lines that overheated in 2009, igniting trees in their backyard. Allegedly, the power company did not properly train workers in how to service the power lines, including the use of a wire brush to clean them before splicing them. Using a wire brush can prevent the power lines from rusting, overheating and then falling. The jury sided with the Goretzka family and awarded a record sum for the county.
West Penn Power had reportedly turned down an offer to settle out of court from the family, with the condition that West Penn institute infrared inspections of power lines and updating staff training to include the proper cleaning of power lines.
West Penn Power has yet to say if they plan to appeal.
The Hale Law Firm
100 Executive Court, Suite 3
Waxahachie, TX 75165