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Personal Injury Verdicts & Awards

$30 Million Settlement in Area Deaths

August 26, 1990

Staff Writer

The families of two young Susquehanna County men, electrocuted while installing a new roof on a house, will receive nearly $30-million as a result of an out of court settlement, the Sunday Independent has learned.

Thomas A Bush, 32, of South Montrose and Kirk L. Zurn, 35, of Kingsley were killed in 1985 while they were replacing a roof on the home of Bush's parents in Forest Lake Township.

Both were teachers and athletic coaches in Susquehanna at the time and were well known personalities.

They were moving an aluminum ladder during the construction project when it came into contact with a 7,200 volt power line which was positioned only seven and half feet from the home.

The power line was owned and maintained by the Claverack Rural Electric Co-Operation, Incorporated.

Attorney Joseph A.Quinn Jr. of the Wilkes-Barre law firm of Hourigan Kluger Spohrer & Quinn, was retained by the widows of the two men to initiate legal action in a wrongful death suit against the power company.

Initially filed in Luzerne County court due to the fact that Claverack did business in a section of Luzerne County the cause was transferred to Susquehanna county and, ultimately, Wyoming County Judge Brendan Vanston was specially assigned to preside at a jury trial.

An interesting aside to the case two of the jurors in the case were, in fact, members of the Claverack Electric Co-Operative, the defendant.

The jury trial, conducted last May, was limited to establishing claims of liability. Having established that claim, the case was due to proceed to a second case, this time to establish the amount of damages owed by the defendant.

However, an out of court settlement was reached between the parties, thus negating the need for a second trial.

The structured settlement involves the immediate payment of $4 million in cash to be divided between the widows and two minor sons of each man and then a schedule of payment to be issued periodically over the terms of their lives which will amount to approximately $30-million.

It was the contention of the plaintiff that the location of a uninsulated, high voltage, electrical transmission line only a little more than seven feet from a residential dwelling, constituted negligence on the part of the defendant.

The plaintiff demonstrated through complex exhibition of models that the line in question could have been safely located else where, to minimize human contact and injury.

Attorney Quinn argued to the jury that the close proximity of the wire to the Bush home was an unreasonable hazard.

A human factors' expert, testifying on behalf of the plaintiff's, said studies showed that 87 percent of people interviewed believe that high voltage are insulted in a way as to preclude accidental electrocution in the event of contact while grounded . However, Attorney Quinn showed that belief is faulty.

At the time of his death, Bush was guidance coordinator and placement director of the Susquehanna County Area Vocational Technical School. Holder of masters degree in counseling and administration, it was argued that the man was grooming to be superintendant of the school district where he was employed which was Elk Lake School District. He was employed as head softball coach, assistant soccer coach, and junior varsity wrestling coach.

Zurn held a masters degree in mathematics and was a math teacher at Elk Lake district were he was also employed as varsity wrestling coach, varsity track coach and varsity soccer coach.

Attorney Quinn was assisted at trial by partner Attorney Anthony Falvello and Attorney Eugene Speerazza, litigation assistant Richard Shemo.

Quinn has developed a reputation as a personal injury lawyer in Pennsylvania as a result of a series of multi-million dollar jury verdicts as well out of court settlements.

He is past president of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice and a present member of Board of Governors in the American Trial Lawyers Association. He was one of only twenty-eight Pennsylvania lawyers listed for inclusion in the weekly guide entitled, "The Best Lawyers In America."

He is a frequent lecturer at trial seminars in this and other states for trial lawyers and judges.

PLEASE NOTE: Every case is fact specific, and these results do not guaranty the same results will be obtained in a different case.

About HKQ Law

HKQ Law is considered one of the top civil litigation and commercial law firms in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Nine attorneys at HKQ Law were recently named to the 2019 Best Lawyers List and has been designated a Tier 1 Best Law Firm for personal injury, medical malpractice litigation labor law and corporate law in Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. The firm’s Personal Injury Team, led by Attorney Joe Quinn, has won some of the largest verdicts and settlements in the region's history on behalf of injured clients. The firm was also recently recognized for one of the top 20 Verdicts in Pennsylvania.

The Personal Injury Team focuses on a wide array of personal injury claims and civil litigation, including medical malpractice, auto and truck accidents, aviation accidents, unsafe vehicles, dangerous or defective products, workplace injuries (worker's compensation), construction site accidents, claim denials by insurance companies, dangerous drugs, defective children's products, nursing home abuse and neglect, and falls due to unsafe conditions (slip and fall).

Attorney Joseph A. Quinn is one of only 100 attorneys in the United States (and one of only three in Pennsylvania) honored with membership in the Inner Circle of Trial Advocates, and one of only 500 attorneys worldwide chosen to be a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. He has been a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer every year since the program began and has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America every year since the publication was established in 1987. Best Lawyers also named him top personal injury attorney for Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley.

Since the inception of the firm, the Commercial / Corporate Team led by Attorney Allan Kluger has provided comprehensive, integrated legal services to many of Northeastern and Eastern Pennsylvania's largest corporations, businesses, banks, non-profits and institutions, handling matters involving labor and employment, wills, trusts and estate planning, estate administration, elder law, commercial transactions, residential and commercial real estate, zoning, land use and development, telecommunications, mediations and arbitrations, commercial litigation, title insurance, business planning and business succession, corporate/business structuring, employment discrimination law for employers, banking, creditor’s rights, finance, lender liability defense, covenants not to compete, construction law, mergers and acquisitions and other business matters.

Additional information can be found at or by calling (800) 760-1529.



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