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White and Williams Obtains Reversal on Appeal of $2.5M Verdict Against Electric Utility Company

August 28, 2014

In Nertavich v. PPL Electric Utilities, an employee of a painting subcontractor fell from an electric transmission pole while painting the pole.  The plaintiff argued that although the utility was a landowner out of possession, the utility was liable because it controlled the work of the subcontractor by contract and by conduct.  A jury in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas awarded the plaintiff a multi-million verdict, which was later molded to $2.5 million.  On appeal, we argued, and the Superior Court agreed, that the alleged evidence of the utility company’s control by contract and conduct (e.g., the presence of a contract field representative on site, internal safety guidelines, controlling access to the pole when lines were energized, the provision of certain ladders for access to the pole) was insufficient as a matter of law to constitute control over the means and methods of the subcontractor’s work, and thus, the utility was not liable as a landowner out of possession.  The court also rejected the plaintiff’s various “direct” theories of negligence by holding that such theories did not confer a legally cognizable duty upon the utility.  As a result, the court vacated the plaintiff’s $2.5 million verdict and entered judgment in favor of the utility. 

PPL was represented by Ed Koch, Andy Susko, Mark Paladino and Luke Repici.

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