With complainant’s death, a landmark smart-meter case grinds to a halt
Updated: MAY 4, 2017 — 1:37 PM EDT
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on Thursday dismissed a prominent case by a Philadelphia smart-meter opponent, but left unresolved her claims that Peco’s digital device violated the state’s utility law because it made her sick.
The PUC dismissed the complaint by Susan Kreider, 59, a Germantown nurse who in 2014 defiantly replaced Peco’s smart meter, after Kreider died in November from complications related to a fall she suffered in her home, according to her brother, Benjamin A. Kreider Jr.
The death of a complainant during an ongoing proceeding presented the PUC with an unfamiliar legal challenge, as three of the five commissioners voted to follow civil court procedure and dismiss the case “for lack of jurisdiction.” That decision allows Kreider’s “personal representative” 45 days to step in as a substitute to pursue her claims.
Two dissenting commissioners, David W. Sweet and Robert F. Powelson, said Kreider’s death rendered the case moot. “With the untimely death of the complainant, there no longer is a case in controversy, and therefore, no claims remain for which the executor can be substituted,” they said in a statement.
Kreider’s elder brother, who is the executor of her estate, said in a telephone interview Thursday that he respected his sister’s fight to force Pennsylvania to allow customers to opt out from having a smart meter, but that he would not continue her legal battle because several other customers were actively pursuing similar claims before the PUC.
“I’m not going to pursue it,” he said. “We’re looking for closure.”
The PUC has routinely dismissed complaints from customers who objected to the smart meters, which Pennsylvania utilities are installing under a legislative mandate. But it opened the door for Kreider and later for other customers who complained the meters’ electromagnetic pulses cause them to get sick and, therefore, violate state law requiring utilities to provide “safe and reasonable” service.
Kreider claimed that she suffered “deleterious health effects” after Peco installed a new wireless meter on her Queen Lane home in 2013, but she said her symptoms went away after she replaced the digital meter with an older analog meter she bought on the internet.
In September, two administrative law judges recommended the PUC dismiss the complaint, siding with Peco’s expert witnesses who said that the meters are safe and that there was no reliable evidence linking smart meters to the ailments Kreider said she suffered.
“Ms. Kreider’s testimony failed to establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the existence of the smart meter in her home was the cause of her illness,” the judges, Darlene Heep and Christopher P. Pell, said in their decision.
Kreider, who had represented herself in the case, had filed exceptions to the decision before she fell in her home in October. She died Nov. 10 after suffering several strokes, said her brother. “I don’t think the smart meter had anything to do with her death,” he said.
Kreider said his sister’s Germantown home was sold in April. One of the estate’s last acts was to settle accounts with Peco, based on estimated electrical usage, and to permit the utility to replace the unauthorized analog meter Susan Kreider had installed with a smart meter.