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Andrew F. Susko, Edward M. Koch, Luke A. Repici and Mark Paladino Obtain Reversal on Appeal of $2.5 Million Verdict Against an Electric Utility Company

Court Crier | August 27, 2014

In Nertavich v. PPL Elec. 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 as requested by the subcontractor) 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.  

If you are interested in obtaining more information about this case or issue, please contact  Andy Susko (suskoa@whiteandwilliams.com; 215.864.6228) or Edward Koch (koche@whiteandwilliams.com; 215.864.6319)     

This correspondence should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult a lawyer concerning your own situation and legal questions.
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