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Yorty v. PJM Interconnection, L.L.C.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

October 2, 2013

MARLIN YORTY and NORA McCORMISH
v.
PJM INTERCONNECTION, L.L.C., Appellant

Appeal from the Order Entered March 8, 2012, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Civil Division at No. December Term 2009, No. 002191

BEFORE: FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E., MUNDY AND FITZGERALD, [*] JJ.

OPINION

FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E.

Appellant, PJM Interconnection, LLC ("PJM"), appeals the denial of its motion for summary judgment below. Finding that the trial court erred in not granting summary judgment, we reverse.

Since our decision goes against their favor, and because this is a summary judgment matter, we will accept the statement of facts presented by appellees:

In December 2009, plaintiff Marlin Yorty and his wife, Nora McCormish, filed suit in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County against 22 defendants. R.60a. Plaintiffs' complaint asserted two claims. Yorty asserted a claim sounding in negligence — and specifically alleged gross negligence — against the defendants (R.74a-78a), and McCormish asserted a claim for loss of consortium (R.78a).
Defendant PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. is a regional transmission organization [RTO] whose duties include coordinating the flow of electricity on the interstate electrical transmission grid owned and operated by local electric utilities. R.207a. In its role as a regional transmission organization, PJM monitors the transmission grid and notifies local utilities of problems with the grid that the local utility is then required to investigate and remedy. R.208a. As its full name indicates, PJM is organized as a private limited liability corporation.
When a repair that PJM requires a local utility to perform necessitates taking power lines out of service, PJM is responsible for ensuring that the remaining facilities and power lines remaining in service are sufficient to carry power to customers without interruption. R.208a. PJM performs this role with regard to the high voltage power lines located throughout Pennsylvania and in all or parts of 12 other states plus the District of Columbia. R.207a-08a.
Plaintiff Marlin Yorty worked as an electrician for PPL Electric Utilities Corp. at PPL's Juniata Substation in Perry County, Pennsylvania. R.72a. PPL's electricity transmission facilities include a portion of the Juniata—Conemaugh 500kV (500000 Volt) transmission line that transmits electricity between PPL's Juniata Substation and the Conemaugh switching station owned by two other power companies. R.210a.
In 2006, PJM informed PPL that a potential future grid reliability problem existed on PPL's Juniata—Conemaugh 500kV transmission line. R.212a. PPL then investigated the problem and devised a solution. Id. On June 13, 2008, PPL asked PJM for permission to take the Juniata-Conemaugh 500kV transmission line out of service on September 30, 2008 to replace the wavetrap on that line. Id. In response to that request, PJM studied whether this particular power outage would affect the delivery of power to other customers. R.212a-13a.
On the morning of September 30, 2008, PJM completed its final outage studies for PPL's request and granted PPL permission to remove the Juniata-Conemaugh 500kV transmission line from service so that the repairs could be performed. R.213a. According to plaintiffs complaint, PJM knew that a separate 500000 Volt transmission line, known as the Keystone-Juniata 500kV transmission line, runs parallel within 100 feet of the Juniata-Conemaugh 500kV transmission line for approximately 118 miles, including at the location of the intended PPL repairs. R.2157a. PJM further knew that when the Juniata-Conemaugh 500kV transmission line was de-energized for repairs, that line was vulnerable to induced voltage from the nearby energized Keystone-Juniata 500kV transmission line. Id.
Yorty was working in close proximity to the de-energized Juniata-Conemaugh 500kV transmission line on September 30, 2008 when induced power from the nearby parallel Keystone-Juniata 500kV transmission line caused the Juniata-Conemaugh 500kV transmission line to re-energize, inflicting the severe injuries that give rise to Yorty's suit. R.2138a-39a.

Appellees' brief at 3-5.

On October 6, 2011, PJM filed a motion for summary judgment.[1] One of the bases[2] for the motion was a contention that PJM was immune from suit pursuant to a Tariff granted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ("FERC"). The ...


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