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Pittsburgh court readies for electrocution accident case

A Pennsylvania woman died three years ago from burns she received at her home in North Huntingdon. The family of the victim filed a wrongful death claim in Pittsburgh charging an electric utility company with negligence.

According to court papers, the mother of two was severely burned by a fallen power line near her home. The 39-year-old victim's young daughters and mother-in-law helplessly watched the woman's pain and suffering. The woman suffered electric shocks and critical burns. She caught fire several times in the minutes before the 7,200-volt line could be switched off.

The victim was taken to UPMC Mercy Hospital where she was admitted with burns covering 85 percent of her body. The woman died in the hospital three days after the electrocution.

West Penn Power Co. is the defendant named in the lawsuit. The utility was sold to FirstEnergy Corp. after the fatal accident. The complaint alleges the utility carelessly installed and maintained splices that supported the power line.

The suit claims a rust buildup on the splices may have heated up the wire and caused it to collapse. The plaintiffs - the family of the deceased woman - may show the court the accident was preventable and caused by the utility company's carelessness.

Damages sought were not specified. FirstEnergy claims the allegations are false. The case is likely to last two weeks to make room for testimony from separate utility experts scheduled for the defendant and plaintiffs.

The weeks during the civil lawsuit may be painful for family members, including the 2- and 4-year-old girls who witnessed their mother's burning. The plaintiffs hope that hearing the awful details of their loved one's death will result in compensation for an overwhelming loss. A compassionate jury -- convinced that the utility company was negligent -- would compensate the victim's relatives.

Punitive damages may also be possible to deter the electric company from neglecting its power lines in the future.

Source:, "_blank">Jurors being screened in suit over North Huntingdon woman's electrocution death," Paul Peirce, Nov. 15, 2012

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