Truckers crashed into sagging Verizon phone line attached to 1943 pole, suit says

Verizon Communications Inc. faces a September trial in Western Pennsylvania over a sagging phone line that two brothers crashed into one night, smashing their 18-wheeler’s windshield, and leading to personal injuries.

The lawsuit claims that a Verizon telephone pole leaned dangerously and caused the phone lines to hang low.

Verizon declined to comment on the case because of ongoing litigation.

The case, filed in Allegheny County Common Please Court in April 2016, comes as unionized Verizon workers have warned in a petition at the Public Utility Commission that Verizon has failed to properly maintain telephone poles and parts of its legacy copper-line phone network in Pennsylvania, which poses dangers to workers and the public.

As part of a settlement earlier this month with the Communications Workers of America, Verizon agreed to remove 15,000 “double poles” in Pennsylvania over the next three years. These are damaged poles left standing or strapped to new telephone poles, and upgrade parts of its copper-based phone network.

Union officials say that Verizon has deprived older parts of its telecom network of investments as it has focused on wireless and FiOS TV and internet services.

The Western Pennsylvania pole was not a “double pole.” It was installed in 1943, according to the company. “Verizon has not produced documentation to show that the pole was inspected since that time,” the attorney for the two brothers, Carlyle “C.J” Engel, said on Thursday.

According to the suit, brothers Robert and Richard Hetrick were driving in their 18-wheeler Kenilworth on Route 40 in rural Addison Township, Somerset County, on the night of Nov. 17, 2014, when they crashed into a sagging Verizon line. They were delivering a load of televisions to New York City.

The truck dragged the telephone pole onto Route 40. The brothers said in the suit they suffered injuries in the crash. There was $16,000 in damage to the 18-wheeler.

The suit added that “multiple poles in this vicinity [of the crash] along Route 40 are, or have been, leaning, or the poles actually had makeshift ‘extensions’ bolted to the top of the poles with utility wires relocated to these extensions.”