Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Motion For Summary Judgment Entered in Favor of PennDOT in Pothole Case

In the case of Teixeira v. Com. of Penna., Dept. of Transp., No. 7917-CIVIL-2019 (C.P. Monroe Co. Aug. 5, 2021 Williamson, J.), Judge David J. Williamson of the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas granted the Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment in a matter involving a motorcycle accident.

The Plaintiff motorcyclist alleges that he hit a large pothole on Interstate Route 80 in Monroe County as a result of which he crashed and sustained multiple injuries.

The court noted that the issue before it concerned the pothole exception to the sovereign immunity allowed under the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act, 42 Pa. C.S.A. §8522(b)(5). The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania asserted that it was protected from civil suits based in tort under the doctrine of sovereign immunity unless one of the ten narrow exceptions to the law apply. As noted, the Plaintiff was arguing the potholes and other dangerous conditions exception to the Act.

The court noted that a Plaintiff seeking to utilize this exception must prove that there was sufficient prior written notice provided to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania of the allegedly dangerous condition.

Here, the court accepted PennDOT’s argument that the Plaintiff failed to show that there was actual written notice provided to PennDOT of the pothole in question. 

The court noted that, while the record revealed that various complaints were called in by members of the public and reduced to writing by the PennDOT call center, those complaints identified problems with Route 80 in general and varied widely in terms of complaints with respect to the area where potholes existed. 

The court additionally noted that nothing was submitted in actual writing by the actual complainants themselves to PennDOT. 

The court additionally confirmed that none of the complaints identified in the records reference the exact pothole that was involved in this accident. Nor were any of the complaints specific to the mile marker at the location of the accident. Rather, the complaints were generally applied to Route 80 which stretches at least 20 miles through Monroe County.

As such the court found no genuine issue of material fact was presented in this case on the question at issue of whether any actual notice of the pothole in question was provided to PennDOT prior to the subject incident. As such, the court granted PennDOT’s Motion for Summary Judgment.

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

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