Thursday, February 3, 2011

Commonwealth Court Addresses Liability of PennDOT for Lack of Rumble Strips

On January 19, 2011, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court issued an Opinion in the case of Brown v. PennDOT et al., No. 1298 C.D. 2010 (Pa.Cmwlth. 2011, Leadbetter, P.J., McCullough, J., Friedman, S.J.)(Opinion by Friedman, S.J.), in which the Court addressed the issue of sovereign immunity for PennDOT in an automobile accident case in which there were allegations that PennDOT was liable for failing to implant rumble strips along a curved portion of the roadway where the injured party left the road and was involved in an accident.

The case is noteworthy in that the Commonwealth Court agreed with the Plaintiff's position that rumble strips, where they have been installed, must be considered part of the road.

However, in favor of PennDOT, the Court also found that where, as in this case, rumble strips have not been installed, the absence of rumble strips does not create a defect of the highway, and DOT has no duty to install them.

This case is therefore good for plaintiffs who argue that installed rumble strips are defective. The case is also good for PennDOT in that it was upheld that there is no duty on the part of PennDOT to install rumble strips.

Here is a link to the Brown Opinion online:

http://www.aopc.org/OpPosting/Cwealth/out/1298CD10_1-19-11.pdf


This Brown decision can be read in conjunction with the Commonwealth Court's recent decision in the case of Lambert v. Katz on the liability of PennDOT for conditions on highways. In Lambert the Commonwealth Court held, in a slip opinion, that the lack of a shoulder does not render a highway unsafe for travel, i.e., condition of shoulder does not constitute a dangerous condition of highway.

Here's a link to the recent Tort Talk write-up on the Lambert case:

http://www.torttalk.com/2010/11/penndot-not-liable-for-shoulder-of.html


I thank Attorney Scott Schermerhorn of Scranton, PA for bringing the Brown case to my attention.

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