Monday, June 24, 2024

Applicability of Jerk and Jolt Doctrine Addressed by Court

In the case of Thomas v. SEPTA, June Term, 2020 No. 1431 (C.P. Phila. Co. Feb. 7, 2024 Powell, Jr., J.), the court addressed the applicability of the “jerk and jolt” doctrine in a case involving a Plaintiff who fell on a SEPTA bus when the bus stopped abruptly and her leg was caught in a baby stroller that was in the aisle.

The court generally noted the jerk and jolt doctrine applies as an exception to sovereign immunity when an individual testifies that they were injured when a car or bus jerked suddenly or violently. Under this doctrine, the Plaintiff must show that the jerk or jolt had an extraordinarily disturbing effect on other passengers or that the manner or occurrence of the accident or its effect on the Plaintiff inherently established the unusual or extraordinary character of the jerk or jolt.

In this Rule 1925 Opinion addressed to the Superior Court, the trial court stated that, in this case, the Plaintiff testified that the stroller caused her to fall after the bus driver slammed on the brakes and the Plaintiff’s foot got caught in the stroller.

The trial court concluded that the jerk and jolt doctrine did not apply and that it was up to the jury to otherwise decide if SEPTA was negligent in deciding whether the bus was safe to operate with the aisle obstructed.

In its Rule 1925 Opinion, the trial court requested the Commonwealth Court to affirm its decision that the jerk and jolt doctrine did not apply and that the trial court had not abused its discretion in denying SEPTA’s Motions for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict entered by the jury.

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

Source: “The Legal Intelligencer Common Pleas Alert” (May 15, 2024).

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