Lawsuit for Fatal Car Accident As a Result of An Exposed Trailing End of the Highway Guardrail

In Burkholz v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation, 667 A.2d 513 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1995), Burkholz (Decedent Burkholz) was killed when his van left State Route 15 northbound in Adams County, traveled over the southbound lane, across the berm, and struck the trailing blunt end of a guardrail. The guardrail impaled the van and Decedent Burkholz. Decedent Burkholz's wife, Evelyn Burkholz (Burkholz), the administratrix of Decedent Burkholz, filed suit against DOT and alleged that the exposed trailing end of the guardrail was a dangerous condition of the highway and that Decedent Burkholz's death was proximately caused by DOT's negligent design and maintenance of the guardrail. DOT alleged contributory negligence. The jury found that DOT was negligent but that Decedent Burkholz was contributorily negligent. The jury attributed 15 of the negligence to DOT and 85 to Decedent Burkholz. Burkholz moved for post-trial relief which was denied. Burkholz, 667 A.2d at 515. On appeal to this Court, Burkholz contended that the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County erred when it charged the jury on contributory negligence, used the term "harm" instead of "injury," and when it permitted a state trooper to render an opinion that the result of his investigation was consistent with his previous investigations of other accidents where the driver had fallen asleep. The Court affirmed. Burkholz, 667 A.2d at 515-518.