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Civil juries in two cases award no damages

Published March 12. 2012 05:02PM

Juries in two civil cases tried in Schuylkill County court awarded no damages to the plaintiffs.

Eva Morgans, Ringtown, brought suit against the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) on behalf of her late son who was killed in a one-car accident on a state road outside Gordon in Butler Township, seeking in excess of $1 million in damages. The jury awarded no damages.

Laurie and Christopher Bugdanavage, Marlin, Norwegian Township, brought suit against the Donegal Mutual Insurance Company, of Mariett, seeking additional damages for loss of their home in Minersville by fire. The jury awarded no damages.

Fatal crash

In the trial of the auto death the mother presented testimony claiming the highway department's negligence of reconstructing and maintaining SR4006 led to her son's death.

Testimony presented before a jury in Judge Charles M. Miller's courtroom was that on the night of Dec. 23, 2007, Donald Hartzel III, turned onto SR4006 from a township road and struck a puddle of water, in some areas seven inches deep, and lost control of his car. It struck an embankment and rolled over several times. He was fatally injured.

The claim of negligence was that PennDOT, when it reconstructed the road in 2002, did not complete it to the standards of the code and did not maintain it properly by allowing the drains to become clogged. It was testified more than 100 feet of the highway was under water after an all-day rain.

PennDOT presented an expert witness who estimated the car was traveling more than 60 MPH in a 35 zone when it came in contact with the water and the driver lost control of his vehicle.

The jury returned a verdict that PennDOT and the driver were both negligent but placed the percentage of negligence at 25 percent on the highway department and 75 percent on the motorist. Under state law at least 50 percent negligence is required for money damages to be awarded.

Insurance suit

In the suit brought by the Bugdanavages against the insurance company which was tried before a jury in President Judge William E. Baldwin's courtroom, the testimony was the Bugdanavages' home on Spencer Street in Minersville was gutted by a fire on Oct. 11, 2006.

The insurance company paid them $170,000 on an estimate made, which would be the cost to restore the home. But the homeowners razed the structure although no notice was received from the borough and purchased a home in Marlin.

They sought the maximum insurance policy listed at $300,000. The jury awarded no damages.

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