After reading this title, most people are probably amazed - or even disgusted - by the amount of money mentioned. But once a little more information is given, it may seem more reasonable. Wrongful death cases such as this one take into account many different factors that people who have never been involved in this type of lawsuit don't consider.
First, a little background. In 2009, in Pennsylvania, a woman went into her back yard to call the local power company on her cell phone after the power went out in her home. This was the third time that the power line had failed. While she was outside, the power line, which was still live, fell on her. When her mother-in-law went outside to check on her, she discovered the victim being electrocuted and burned. She went into the yard and tried to help, but was immediately injured by the electricity and was unable to help. The mother-in-law and neighbors who wanted to assist could do nothing to help the victim until the power to the line was cut off 20 to 25 minutes later. She was eventually taken to the hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries three days later.
Not only did a woman lose her life, but she suffered immense pain before her death. To make matters worse, her mother-in-law and two daughters, who were two and four at the time, saw her being burned and electrocuted. That is something these survivors will most likely remember for the rest of their lives. Her husband lost his wife, and her children lost their mother in a horrific way.
Allegedly, this was not the first time that the power line failed. Two other times their house had lost power and the husband had notified the power company of the problem. The attorney for the victim claimed that workers for the electric company had been inadequately trained in how to splice wires so that they would not rust and come apart.
All of these factors were considered by the jury and led them to award the largest amount of damages ever given in Allegheny County. Many of those who have read about the award in news reports think the amount was outrageous. But this amount is not only meant to compensate the family who lost a dear mother, wife, and daughter, some of whom watched her suffer immensely. More than half of the amount - $61 million of it - was also punitive damages, which are awarded by a jury to punish the defendants for their negligent actions. Usually punitive damages are based on the guilty individual or company's assets, so penalties against large companies can be quite substantial. The reasoning is if the award is too small, it won't have any effect against the company and they will continue to act negligently.
Although this case took place in Pennsylvania, Kentucky wrongful death lawsuits are handled in a similar fashion. Any differences that exist because of state laws would be known by an experienced Kentucky wrongful death attorney.
Penn. family awarded $109 million in wrongful death lawsuit; Clarion Ledger; Associated Press; December 8, 2012
Family awarded $109 million judgment in mother's electrocution death; WTAE.com; December 6, 2012