Puget Sound Energy has responded to a wrongful death suit filed against the company for the death of a Bonney Lake teenager.
In Aug. 2014, Bonney Lake High School student Madeline Roskie, 18, was inner-tubing with her boyfriend when she suddenly fell unconscious in the Puyallup River. East Pierce Fire and Rescue pronounced her dead at the scene when they arrived.
The wrongful death suit, filed by her father Earl Roskie on Aug. 1, 2017, alleges PSE and four unknown people were negligent in maintaining a nearby irrigation pump, where technicians found a 280V to ground issue, which led to Roskie’s death.
PSE’s response was filed with the Pierce County Superior Court on Oct. 6, and asks the court to dismiss the case.
The company argues the case should be dismissed because Roskie’s death, as shown on her official death certificate, “is not ‘electrocution’ or anything remotely similar. It is ‘undetermined,’” the response reads. “The death certificate indicates that an autopsy was performed and that the findings were available to complete the cause of death determination…. Still, the cause of death was not something that could be determined.”
PSE points to RCW 70.58.180, which states the cause of death, as noted by a professional and written on a death certificate “shall be the legally accepted cause of death.”
“The language used in (Roskie’s) death certificate must be applied as written, and cannot be contested after the fact by Plaintiff in this wrongful death action,” PSE’s response reads. “And because the cause of death has been conclusively been deemed to be ‘undetermined,’ no liability could attach to Defendant PSE. Plaintiff’s claims should be dismissed accordingly.”
While Roskie’s death certificate does state her cause of death as undetermined, East Pierce and the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office discussed whether electrocution could have been a factor during the investigation after her death.
In Earl Roskie’s original complaint, Roskie complained of her legs going numb before falling unconscious, and her boyfriend also experience a “tingling sensation in his fingers.”
In an Aug. 25, 2014 email conversation between East Pierce Assistant Chief Russ McCallion and Matt Lacy, a former associate medical examiner for Pierce County, Lacy wrote Roskie’s autopsy results were “inconclusive as to an anatomic cause of death… I would not expect an electrocution that involved a diffuse contact, such as through water, to leave any physical signature on the body. Based on your email, I am very concerned that an electrical hazard in or near the water at that location may have caused this girl’s death.”
A few days later, Assistant Chief Ed Goodlet updated Lacy, saying a technician did find a 280V to ground issue at the pump, and “this is a bit more significant that what I was told before as being less than an electric fence, but he has no idea how much voltage could be going into the river nor how much of the river could be impacted.”
Goodlet announced to the department that all issues were fixed Aug. 28, 2014.
The hearing on PSE’s motion to dismiss the case is scheduled to be heard Dec. 8.