Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Family Settles in Mom's Death West Penn Power to Pay $105 Million

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Family Settles in Mom's Death West Penn Power to Pay $105 Million

Article excerpt

Trimming the largest personal injury award in Pennsylvania by just $4 million, the family of an Irwin woman who was electrocuted in her own yard by a fallen power line has agreed to accept a $105 million settlement from West Penn Power.

In addition, as part of an agreement with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, the electric company will be required to retrain all of its linemen and inspect all of its existing 26,000 miles worth of power lines.

"It is a ringing endorsement of the jury's verdict in this case," said Shanin Specter, the attorney who represented the family of Carrie Goretzka. "This is West Penn Power saying the jury got it right, and that is a very important statement that the civil justice system can work."

The company confirmed the settlement and said it is awaiting approval by the courts. It offered no further comment.

Mr. Specter acknowledged that no amount of money can bring back Mrs. Goretzka, but he called it "fair compensation" for members of her family who had to witness the woman being shocked by a 7,000- volt power line for 20 minutes before work crews showed up to turn it off.

Mrs. Goretzka, 39, was inside her home on June 2, 2009, when the electricity went out. It was a clear day, and when she looked outside, she saw trees in her yard on fire.

Mrs. Goretzka went to her car to retrieve her cell phone to call 911 when a line fell on her.

Her daughters, then 2 and 4 years old, and her mother-in-law looked on as she was shocked. Her mother-in-law, JoAnn Goretzka, burned her hands trying to help.

Even after Mrs. Goretzka was freed, she remained conscious for another 25 minutes before she was intubated.

She died three days later.

"It's unimaginable," Mr. Specter said.

The power line at the Goretzka house had fallen twice before the incident in June 2009, and Michael Goretzka had made formal complaints with West Penn.

During the nearly four-week trial late last year, Mr. Specter presented evidence that linemen for the company were not properly cleaning the splices on the power lines with a wire brush as had been recommended by the manufacturer. …

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