Posted: July 15, 2023

Injuries are unfortunate. When faced with an accident, especially when it is not your fault, but due to the recklessness, carelessness or negligence of another, accidents can be infuriating. However, despite the pain and suffering that can be caused, marked improvements to safety and policies can result that reduce the chances of future injury. When faced with a personal injury, it can instill hope to remember that to advocate through litigation might not just be for yourself, but for society as a whole.

One example: Kline & Specter’s Shanin Specter won a $109 million verdict for a Pittsburgh family after a young wife and mother was electrocuted by a fallen power line. An investigation by our attorneys revealed that the incident occurred due to inadequate repair and maintenance of power lines. The case ended not only with a highly publicized $109 million verdict (and subsequent $105 million settlement) but also an agreement by the utility, West Penn Power, to adopt stringent future safety measures, including improved training for those installing power lines and regular inspections.

Tom Kline was instrumental in the enactment of the Timothy J. Piazza Anti-Hazing Act. Named for the Penn State pledge who died in 2017 in a night of alcohol poisoning from hazing, the new law has been termed the most comprehensive anti-hazing measure in the nation. It created a new felony offense of aggravated hazing and allows confiscation of property, such as fraternity houses. The law provides safe harbor immunity for those who call for help or render assistance in a hazing incident. Similar legislation was later introduced in other states, including New Jersey. The lawsuit in the Piazza case also resulted in Penn State adopting a comprehensive 17-point reform package intended to help prevent similar tragedies in the future.

In another case, which achieved a $7 million settlement, important policy changes were made at a Delaware County prison following the suicide of a mentally ill inmate who was kept in solitary confinement for 52 straight days at the prison. The company that runs the George W. Hill Correctional Facility agreed to require that if a mentally ill inmate must be placed in solitary for security reasons, the inmate must be evaluated by a psychologist within 24 hours. Kline got the City of Philadelphia and the police department to agree to new training protocols for plainclothes officers in a settlement that occurred in a case in which a take-out food deliveryman was shot after he was mistaken as a criminal suspect. The city agreed to update rules governing plainclothes officer attire and how and when they must identify themselves as police officers. 

In an earlier police case, Specter not only achieved a significant settlement for the estates of a man and his infant son who were killed when they were run down by a speeding police car, he was also able to get a series of police reforms aimed at reducing future fatal accidents. Among the new policies: a requirement that officers log 60 hours behind the wheel with a veteran before driving alone and a rule that squad cars responding to emergencies must stop (rather than slow) at red lights and stop signs.

Specter also prompted the City of Philadelphia to require inspections of all fire escapes. That happened after a young man was killed and two other people were injured when a fourth-floor fire escape landing collapsed. Following a confidential settlement in the case, a city ordinance was also enacted mandating that all fire escapes be inspected by an independent structural engineer and then be re-inspected at least every five years.

And, in perhaps one of the firm’s most renowned cases, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority approved a $30 million program to revamp its entire escalator system. That, after Kline won a $51 million verdict in the case of a little boy whose foot was torn off in a SEPTA escalator. The transit agency also agreed to step up its inspections and preventive maintenance. It replaced 10 escalators and modernized many others with safety features.

Those are only some of the examples of civil action prompting changes that benefited the entire community. To see more, visit the Safety Improvements.