court has pardoned the state transportation department, cancelling
a $571,250 judgment PennDOT was ordered to pay to crash victims'
survivors of a 1994 collision.
filed Monday in Commonwealth Court reverses the 1999 Cambria County
jury verdict, saying PennDOT can claim sovereign immunity - a
bar on lawsuits against government - against allegations that
poor design turned Route 22 atop Cresson Mountain into a winter
Late in the
afternoon of Feb. 24, 1994, 26 vehicles collided as a winter storm
sent a blanket of snow across the mountaintop highway. As vehicles
began to pile up, a tractor-trailer rolled into the wreckage,
struck a minivan and killed its four occupants.
a $2.29 million verdict, giving PennDOT 25 percent of the blame
while truck owner National Freight Inc. and driver John Jones
of Elizabeth, PA, carried 75 percent ($1.71 million). Jurors were
unaware that National Freight already paid $3 million to the victims'
survivors in an out-of-court settlement.
deal, the victims' survivors and National Freight agreed to share
any court judgment against PennDOT, with National Freight taking
80 percent of any amount above $100,000 awarded to the survivors.
The victims' survivors would have received $100,000 plus another
$94,250, while National Freight would have received $377,000.