Plum is a borough in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, with a population of approximately 27,000. Oakmont Country Club resides primarily within Plum’s borders, and contains a golf course ranked as one of the five best in America by Golf Digest. The golf course hosted its eighth U.S. Open in 2007, the most of any course.
In August 2008, Antonio and Tina Pettinato filed a lawsuit against Plum Borough, Dominion Peoples Gas Co., and two other businesses, on behalf of Tina’s father Richard J. Leith and their daughter Gianna Pettinato. Leith was killed after his Plum house exploded due to a natural gas leak. Gianna was thrown more than 50 feet and suffered a broken leg due to the blast.
Prior to the lawsuit, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that an excavator probably damaged the gas line while excavating the property in 2003. The damage stripped the pipe’s protective coating and made the pipe susceptible to corrosion and failure. However, the Pettinatos cannot rely on this NTSB conclusion, for causation reports have historically been inadmissible in litigation, and the family will have to prove their case using their own experts. The suit is still pending.
Civil suits arising out of Plum Borough may be heard by one of two courts. If the amount at issue is $7,000 or more, the case will be heard by the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, located in Pittsburgh. The Common Pleas Court also presides over felonies, domestic relations, and juvenile matters. If the amount at issue is less than $7,000, the matter may be heard by the small claims court within the Allegheny County Magisterial District Judge Court, located in Plum. This court also adjudicates local matters, such as traffic and local ordinance violations, as well as misdemeanors and preliminary hearings for felonies.
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