A high profile personal injury case in Pennsylvania, New Jersey’s next-door-neighbor, is on its way to being put to rest.
A few years ago, Carrie Goretzka stepped outside to call the power company and report an outage and downed line on her property, 30 miles east of Pittsburgh. No one knows exactly what happened that day – whether she stumbled onto the line or if it fell onto her. But when her two children ran out onto the porch, what they found was unspeakable.
“Mommy, mommy,” Chloe (4 years old), the oldest child, said. “Mommy is on fire. Mommy is on fire.”
Goretzka was struck with 7,200 volts for 20 minutes before utility crews shut off the line. This had been the third time the line fell in the family’s yard – and the plaintiffs’ attorneys in the subsequent case showed that little had been done by the $16 billion utility company to investigate.
“It’s pretty simple,” one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys said. “It is as clear a case of liability as there could be.”
And the jury, it seemed, agreed. In the Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, the jury awarded Goretzka’s family a whopping $109 million. And, aside from the particularly horrific nature of the accident, this award was record breaking. It was largest personal injury case award in Pennsylvania history.
And while there was potential for the verdict to be appealed, the power company decided to settle the case instead for $105 million, an amount the Goretzkas’ attorney called “a ringing endorsement of the jury’s verdict in this case.” And, along with the payment to the family, the defendant company agreed to inspect 26,000 miles of power lines.
Hopefully, some consolation will come to the family in knowing that further, similar accidents may be avoided in the future.
For more on this tragic story and dramatic conclusion, see http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/news/article.asp?docKey=600-201302040910KRTRIB__BUSNEWS_18377_65343-1¶ms=timestamp%7C%7C02/04/2013%209:10%20AM%20ET%7C%7Cheadline%7C%7C%24109%20million%20personal-injury%20award%20in%20Western%20Pennsylvania%20offers%20insight%20into%20tort%20system%20%5BThe%20Philadelphia%20Inquirer%5D%7C%7CdocSource%7C%7CMcClatchy-Tribune%7C%7Cprovider%7C%7CACQUIREMEDIA%7C%7Cbridgesymbol%7C%7CUS;FE&ticker=FEand http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/westmoreland/west-penn-power-to-pay-105-million-to-settle-irwin-womans-death-676214/.