Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Municipality Secures Summary Judgment Under PSTCA in Trip and Fall Case

In the case of Reaves v. Akken, No. 180404796, No. 2244 EDA 2019 (C.P. Phila. Co. Dec. 16, 2019 Butchart, J.), the court granted the City of Philadelphia’s Motion for Summary Judgment in a trip and fall case.

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff fell while she was walking on a handicap ramp. The Plaintiff claimed that her fall was caused by a dangerous or defective condition of the sidewalk. The street near where the ramp was located was designated as a state highway.

The owners of the abutting property had reached a settlement and entered into a Release with the Plaintiff.

The remaining Defendant, the City of Philadelphia, moved for summary judgment.

The court noted that the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act generally granted immunity to municipalities for negligence. However, an injured party is able to overcome this immunity if one of the exceptions under 42 Pa.C.S.A. §8542 applied. The court in this case noted that the appellate courts of Pennsylvania have narrowly construed the exceptions.

In this matter, the Plaintiff was attempting to rely upon the sidewalks exception and the streets exception, neither of which the court found applicable to allow the case to proceed.

The court also noted that, where there is abutting owner at issue, the municipality can only be secondarily liable.

The court also noted that, in this case, the release of the primarily liable party extinguished any claim against the secondarily liable party. Because the Plaintiff had settled the claims with the abutting property owners, i.e., the parties who were primarily liable, the claims against the city, which was only secondarily liable, were found to be extinguished.

The court also found the street exception inapplicable given that the nearby street was owned by the state and not the municipality at issue.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Jan. 28, 2020).

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