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Dauphin County, PA

This action, brought against the defendant road construction company, involved the death of the decedent after his motorcycle crashed on an Interstate 80 exit ramp in Clarion County, Pennsylvania. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant created a dangerous road condition in the form of rough road and several drop-offs, or changes in elevation, of which the defendant failed to warn. The defendant maintained that the fatal accident resulted from the decedent’s state of intoxication and negligent operation of his motorcycle. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, which had contracted the defendant for the road work, was also named as a defendant, but was dismissed from the case prior to trial.

On June 8, ________, the decedent was riding his motorcycle in a heavy rain at approximately sunset. The plaintiff claimed that the decedent’s motorcycle encountered a drop-off of 1 to ________ inches on the 62 exit ramp of Route 80 and went into a skid. The decedent righted the motorcycle, but encountered a second drop-off of four-to-five inches along the side of the ramp, according to the plaintiff’s claims. Evidence showed that the decedent fell again and skidded another 51 feet before coming to rest.

The decedent was pronounced dead at the hospital a short time later. The decedent was approximately 50 years old and was employed in the construction field at the time of his death. He was survived by son who was a minor at the time.

The plaintiff alleged that the drop-offs and milled, rough condition of the highway constituted a dangerous condition for which the defendant was responsible. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant should have left the road surface in a safe condition and posted appropriate warning signs or traffic control devices.

The defendant presented evidence that the decedent’s blood alcohol level was tested to be .28 and .27 when he arrived at the hospital. A broken bottle of vodka was also found on decedent. The defense contended that the decedent was intoxicated and his intoxication was the cause of his death. The defendant’s accident reconstructionist testified that the milled road and drop-off did not cause defendant’s death.

The plaintiff’s toxicologist countered that the decedent’s blood alcohol testing may have been erroneous for a number of reasons. The plaintiff also called seven witnesses who testified that they talked to the decedent by telephone at various times during his ________-mile motorcycle trip and that he sounded lucid and sober. The plaintiff argued that the decedent’s alleged intoxication could not be shown, except for the blood tests.The jury found that the defendant was negligent and that its negligence was a factual cause of the decedent’s death. However, the jury also determined that the decedent was reckless. A finding which the court ruled precluded the plaintiff’s recovery. The plaintiff’s post-trial motions are currently pending.

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