Tuesday, November 30, 2010

PennDOT Not Liable for Shoulder of Roadway

In the recent case of Lambert v. Katz, 2010 W.L. 4596319 (Pa. Cmwlth. November 15, 2010), PICS No. 10-3481 the Commonwealth Court affirmed the Berks County trial court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of PennDOT in a claim involving the deaths of a motorist and a passenger following an accident where the motorist skidded out of control, crossed over guard rails, struck a tree, and slid down an embankment.

In reaching its decision, the Commonwealth Court held that allegedly out-dated guard rails and the Department’s alleged failure to maintain them did not create a dangerous condition on Commonwealth real estate so as to come within the real estate exception to sovereign immunity.

The Court also held that PennDOT did not have any duty to widen the shoulder. The Plaintiffs have presented an expert report which asserted that the motorist possibly would have been able to recover from losing control of his vehicle had the shoulder of the roadway been 10 feet wide.

Although the court agreed that PennDOT had a duty to design and construct roadways in a manner that is safe for their intended and reasonably foreseeable purposes, the Court concluded that, since the shoulder of a highway is not an area on which vehicles are intended to travel, PennDOT could not be held liable in this matter for allegedly failing to construct a wider shoulder.

A copy of this case can be secured from the Instant Case Service of the Pennsylvania Law Weekly by calling 1-800-276-7427 and providing the above-noted PICS number.

Source “Commonwealth Court: Highway Shoulders Not Part of ‘Roadway’” by Leo Strupczewski. The Legal Intelligencer (November 23, 2010).

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