Record $109M jury award is appealed

Feb. 4, 2013 at 3:07 PM
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IRWIN, Pa., Feb. 4 (UPI) -- The appeal of a record $109 million jury award in a wrongful death lawsuit in Pennsylvania is being closely watched by the legal community, lawyers said.

The award stems from the June 2, 2009, death of Carrie Goretzka of Irwin, about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh. Goretzka was home with her two young daughters and mother-in-law when the power in her house went off. She noticed a downed power line in a tree -- the third time since moving into the home the line had come down -- and stepped outside to call the power company to report the outage.

Somehow -- no one knows for sure -- Goretzka came into contact with the line and 7,200 volts went coursing through her body. She died three days later after suffering burns over 85 percent of her body.

Shanin Spector, the family's lawyer and son of the late U.S. Sen. Arlen Spector, said West Penn Power Co., is clearly to blame and used improper splicing techniques when installing the lines, The Philadelphia Inquirer said.

"It's a pretty simple case," Specter said. "A power line fell on a clear day and killed a beautiful woman in front of her kids and her mother-in-law. It is as clear a case of liability as there could be."

West Penn asked a judge in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court to reduce the $109 million award -- $61 million of which the jury said was punitive for the company's negligence -- in a hearing Friday though no decision has yet been made.

The $109 million is the highest jury award in a personal injury civil suit in Pennsylvania history.

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