It was a hot July morning in 2016 when Thomas Poynton Jr. heard an explosion behind his house in Northampton County, Pa. When he looked outside, he noticed one of his dogs acting strangely, writhing about on the lawn. As Poynton, a 31-year-old high school teacher, stepped outside to see what was happening, he was struck by an electrical current running underground from a fallen 34,500-volt Metropolitan Edison transmission line at the back of his yard. Both he and his dog were killed.
Attorneys from Kline & Specter were called to investigate by Poynton’s wife, Sarah, who was somehow spared even though she had also stepped out onto the lawn, perhaps, authorities surmised, because of the simple fact she had been wearing socks.
Sarah Poynton called the law firm because it had gotten results in a similar power line case three years earlier at the other end of Pennsylvania, not only winning a $109 million verdict in Goretzka v. West Penn Power but also concessions from the utility that it would make needed repairs and upgrades to its power lines. That case also convinced the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) to create a special unit to investigate such tragic incidents.
Kline & Specter attorneys immediately referred the Poynton tragedy to the PUC and members of the special unit, which arrived on the scene with investigators. That PUC probe came to fruition recently with an announcement that the commission was fining Met-Ed $1 million and had forged an agreement with the power company under which it will make safety improvements at a cost of $16 million.
Shanin Specter hailed the PUC’s decision as equally important as the substantial, confidential settlement he and his firm had reached with Met-Ed for the Poynton family. “We applaud the PUC for obtaining meaningful safety measures to make all Pennsylvanians less likely to be victimized by an improperly installed and maintained power line. We can’t bring Mr. Poynton back, but this remedial action permits something good to come from his tragic passing,” he told the news media.
The incident at the Poynton house, which also set fire to the house and caused extensive damage, occurred because Met-Ed and its contractors had attached the wrong equipment to the high-voltage line. Also, the utility’s ground fault protection system had failed, which allowed the continued flow of electricity after the line fell and energized the ground.
Kline & Specter has handled a number of cases involving downed power lines and the havoc and death such accidents can cause. Often such incidents are caused by shoddy repairs to power lines or inadequate maintenance and inspections.
In the Goretzka case, which ultimately settled for $105 million, 39-year-old Carrie Goretzka was killed outside her suburban Pittsburgh home when a 7,200-volt power line fell on her property on a clear and sunny day. The same line had fallen five years earlier.
If you or a loved one suffered serious injury or death due to a fallen power line or another electrical occurrence, you may have a basis for a lawsuit. Our experienced lawyers provide free case evaluations for electrocution cases.