Friday, April 2, 2021

Snow/Ice is Not On/Of Real Estate for Real Estate Exception to Sovereign Immunity to Apply

Judgment was entered in favor of the Defendant in the case of Temple v. Housing Auth. of City of Meadville, No. AD 2020-243 (C.P. Crawford, Co. March 18, 2021 St. John, S.J.), which involved a slip and fall incident due to wintry conditions on the property of the Housing Authority of the City of Meadville. 

The Plaintiff allegedly fell on a driveway in her aunt’s housing complex due to snow that had allegedly come upon the driveway after being blown there by a snowblower operated by an employee of the Defendant.

The Housing Authority moved for summary judgment on the grounds that, as a Commonwealth of Pennsylvania agency, it had immunity from any tort claims under the Sovereign Immunity Act.

The Court emphasized within the opinion that the Plaintiff had conceded that the Housing Authority qualified as a Commonwealth entity and that the Sovereign Immunity Act, 42 Pa.C.S.A. Section 8521, et seq., applied.

The Plaintiff attempted to have this case read as falling under the real estate exception to immunity for the Defendant.

The Court analyzed the “on/of” distinction  under the real estate exception under the Sovereign Immunity Act as it related to snow and ice that had accumulated on the Housing Authority’s property. 

The Court noted that the case law of Pennsylvania has not interpreted the language of the Act regarding a “dangerous condition of Commonwealth agency real estate” to include substances, like ice or snow, that were merely lying on the real estate. The Court noted that the inapplicability of the real estate exception was the same even if the snow came upon the surface by being thrown there by a snowblower operated by an employee.

Ultimately, the Court determined the Plaintiff offered no facts that could prove that the snow and ice derived, originated from, or had the Commonwealth realty as its source.  Accordingly, the real estate exception to the immunity provided by the Act was found not to be implicated by the facts of the accident.

As a result, the Court ruled the Plaintiff’s claims and evidence were insufficient to abrogate the Housing Authority’s immunity under the Sovereign Immunity act.

Anyone wishing to review this decision may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney Brian J. Murren and Attorney Jon McAnney of the Lemoyne, PA law firm of Tucker Arensberg, P.C. for bringing this case to my attention.

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