The City of Philadelphia, as well as all cities, towns and school districts in Pennsylvania are "local governmental agencies." As a local governmental agency, the The City of Philadelphia, as well as all cities, towns and school districts are immune from suit, for any personal injuries or property damage claims pursuant to 42 Pa. C.S. §8541. Fortunately, there are eight exceptions to the general rule of immunity and one of them involves sidewalks owned by the local governmental agency. 42 Pa. C.S. § 8542(b)(7) holds that a local governmental agency may be liable for injuries caused by a dangerous condition of sidewalks owned by a local governmental agency. Thus, where the sidewalk in question is actually owned by the City of Philadelphia or local township or school district, a person injured on that sidewalk may be able to pursue a negligence claim against the local governmental agency that owns the sidewalk.
However, it should be noted that exceptions to local governmental agency immunity are strictly interpreted by the court and so the exception is often restricted to the letter of the law. Consequently, for the sidewalk exception the courts have held the language "a dangerous condition of sidewalks" to limit the exception to injuries that occur as a result of a defect or dangerous condition that derived, originated or had as its source the sidewalk itself. In layman's terms, the defect or dangerous condition that causes a person to slip or trip on the sidewalk must be caused by a defect or dangerous condition with the sidewalk itself. For example, dangerous conditions laying on top of the sidewalk, such as a banana peel, snow, ice, rock salt, etc. are not considered dangerous conditions caused by the sidewalk itself and thus, have been held by the courts to not fall within the strict language of the sidewalk exception to the general rule of immunity.
Examples where the dangerous condition was caused by the sidewalk itself, and thus falling within the sidewalk exception to the rule of general immunity, are where a person trips and falls over a crack or raised block of sidewalk making the sidewalk unlevel and a tripping hazard. An example where a person who slips and falls on ice on a sidewalk that would fall within the sidewalk exception to the general rule of immunity is where a cracked, broken section of sidewalk creates a depression or pothole type situation which then causes water to pool in that isolated area which subsequently turns to ice causing a person to slip and fall due to the dangerous slippery condition. Because the dangerous condition, the ice, in this latter example was caused by the defective sidewalk itself, i.e. the cracked, broken concrete that created the depression or pothole, the person who slipped on this particular patch of ice resulting in personal injuries may be able to pursue a personal injury claim against the City of Philadelphia, local township or school district that owns the sidewalk.
If an injured person's claim does fall within the sidewalk exception to the general rule of immunity, then the local governmental agency may be required to compensate the injured person up to the statutory limit of $500,000, pursuant to 42 Pa. C.S. §8553.
Whenever a person slips and falls or trips and falls on a sidewalk due to a dangerous or defective condition and is injured, they should contact a Philadelphia personal injury lawyer with 25 years of experience to determine whether they are entitled to compensation for their medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering from the party responsible to inspect, maintain and repair the sidewalk in question.