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Schnader Attorneys Achieve Victory for Electrical Transmission Company

On October 2, 2013 by Schnader in Appellate

Schnader attorneys Dennis Suplee, Carl Solano, Arlene Fickler, Sam Silver, and Arleigh Helfer recently obtained a significant decision by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania on behalf of PJM Interconnection, L.L.C., the entity that coordinates the flow of electricity on the interstate electric grid in most of the northeastern United States. The suit sought to impose liability on PJM for injuries an electrician employee of a utility in PJM’s geographic territory suffered while working on his employer’s transmission lines. PJM did not control or manage the electrician’s work. The issues in the case concerned whether federal law prohibits state courts from holding PJM liable on such claims.

After a state trial court in Philadelphia rejected PJM’s federal defenses in an order denying summary judgment, the Schnader team immediately appealed that decision to the Superior Court pursuant to Pennsylvania’s collateral order doctrine. The Superior Court then agreed that it had jurisdiction to entertain the appeal, reversed the trial court’s order, and remanded with a direction to enter summary judgment for PJM. The court held that PJM’s FERC-approved tariff both had the force of federal law and provided immunity to PJM for claims of negligence relating to PJM’s performance of its duties, including the scheduling of transmission line outages and ensuring transmission grid reliability. Following FERC precedent construing PJM’s tariff, the court declared that other responsibilities, including the safety of utility workers within PJM’s territory, were allocated to the utilities that own and physically operate the transmission lines and that employ those workers, and that PJM could not be held liable with respect to such responsibilities. Carl Solano argued the case on behalf of PJM.