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Jurors being screened in suit over North Huntingdon woman's electrocution death

| Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

Jury selection will continue this morning in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court in the wrongful death lawsuit over the 2009 electrocution of a 39-year-old North Huntingdon woman.

The civil lawsuit against West Penn Power Co. filed by the family of Carrie Goretzka of 23 W. Hempfield Drive seeks unspecified damages against the utility.

Goretzka died three days after she was trapped under a fallen 7,200-volt power line outside her home on June 2, 2009, in view of her mother-in-law and two daughters, Chloe, then 4, and Carlie, then 2.

The lawsuit alleges that Goretzka was continuously shocked “and actually caught on fire for several minutes before the power was shut off.”

She suffered burns over 85 percent of her body and died in UPMC Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh on June 5, 2009, according to the lawsuit, filed by her husband, Michael J. Goretzka.

Lawyers for the Goretzka family, Shanin Specter and Kila Baldwin of Philadelphia, are expected to summon experts from around the country to attempt to prove to jurors that the utility — now owned by FirstEnergy Corp.— based in Akron, Ohio, should have known that a power line could fall if the line and the splices that held it up were installed incorrectly.

Documents filed in connection with the lawsuit allege that West Penn linemen did not use wire brushes to remove rust from the line splices, “which could result in an increased temperature and lost tension in the wire, causing the wires to fall.”

The company denies the allegations. FirstEnergy is represented by Pittsburgh attorney Mark K. Dausch.

Jurors are expected to hear expert testimony on both sides of the issue during the trial that is expected to last about two weeks.

Judge Michael A. DellaVecchia will preside over the case.

Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or ppeirce@tribweb.com.

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