Judge: Contractor not liable for damage

Penelec sues after mower hits transformer

HOLLIDAYSBURG — A contractor who damaged an electrical transformer and related items while mowing state game lands off Skyline Drive in 2014 has no obligation to pay for that damage, a Blair County judge has ruled.

In Blair County court, Penelec filed a negligence lawsuit in 2015 to recover $12,115 in repairs and cleanup costs from contractor Leroy Z. Zimmerman, doing business as Custom AG Services, and Virgil Martin, who handled the company’s mowing. They were hired in 2014 by the Pennsylvania Game Commission to mow a 101-acre site where tall brush hid the 3-foot-high transformer.

In a recent ruling subsequent to a Sept. 22 trial by court, Judge Timothy Sullivan concluded that neither Zimmerman nor Martin were aware of the transformer’s existence nor did anyone make them aware when the job was bid or before the mowing commenced.

Representatives for Penelec tried to suggest that Zimmerman and Martin had a duty, before starting the mowing job, to check the site and its access route for evidence of any hazards.

Sullivan, in his ruling, said he believed it was reasonable for Zimmerman to have expected the game commission, as property owner, to have marked or flagged any obstructions or hazards.

Trial testimony indicated that the company previously mowed for the game commission at other locations where potential hazards were identified with flags. But in this case, Nathan Havens, a game commission right-of-way administrator, advised the court that he was unaware, until the incident, that the transformer was still on the site. Trial evidence included a game commission letter issued in 2011 advising Penelec that it should remove the no-longer-needed transformer.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.