SEPTA, otherwise known as the South Eastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority was created by the State of Pennsylvania and is a "Commonwealth agency." As a Commonwealth agency, SEPTA, as well as all state created agencies, is immune from suit for any
personal injury claims pursuant to 1 Pa. C.S. §2310 and 42 Pa. C.S. §8521. Fortunately, there are nine exceptions to the general rule of immunity and one of them involves sidewalks and real property owned by the Commonwealth agency. 42 Pa. C.S. § 8522(b)(4) holds that a Commonwealth agency may be liable for injuries caused by a dangerous condition of sidewalks and real property owned or possessed by the Commonwealth agency. Thus, where the sidewalk, walkway, stairs, step, station floor or platform in question is owned or possessed by SEPTA, a person injured on that sidewalk or real property may be able to pursue a
negligence claim against SEPTA.
However, it should be noted that exceptions to Commonwealth 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/real property exception the courts have held the language "a dangerous condition of" sidewalks or real property 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 or real property itself. In layman's terms, the defect or dangerous condition that causes a person to slip or trip must be caused by a defect or dangerous condition with the sidewalk, walkway, stairs, step, station floor or platform itself. For example, dangerous conditions laying on top of the sidewalk, walkway, stairs, step, station floor or platform such as a banana peel, spilled liquid, snow, ice, rock salt, etc. are not considered dangerous conditions caused by the sidewalk or real property itself and thus, have been held by the courts to not fall within the strict language of the sidewalk/real estate exception to the general rule of immunity.
Examples where the dangerous condition was caused by the sidewalk or real property itself, and thus fall within the sidewalk/real property exception to the rule of general immunity, are where a person trips and falls over a cracked, broken or raised section of sidewalk or real property, making the walking surface unlevel and a tripping hazard. An example where a person who slips and falls on ice on a sidewalk or real property that would fall within the sidewalk/real property exception to the general rule of immunity is where a cracked, broken section of sidewalk or real property 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 or real property 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 SEPTA.
If an injured person's claim does fall within the sidewalk/real property exception to the general rule of immunity, then the Commonwealth agency may be required to compensate the injured person up to the statutory limit of $250,000, pursuant to 42 Pa. C.S. §8528(b).
Whenever a person slips and falls or
trips and falls on a sidewalk, walkway, stairs, step, station floor or platform due to a dangerous or defective condition and is injured, they should contact an experienced 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, walkway, stairs, step, station floor, platform or other walking surface in question.