Slip and Falls, Trip and Falls on Real Property Possessed by City of Philadelphia, Local Townships or School Districts in Pa.

Slip and Falls, Trip and Falls on Real Property Possessed by City of Philadelphia, Local Townships or School Districts in Pa.

Posted By Law Offices of Thomas J. Murphy || 4-Jan-2011

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 real property owned by the local governmental agency. 42 Pa. C.S. § 8542(b)(3) holds that a local governmental agency may be liable for injuries caused by the negligent care, custody or control of real property in the possession of the local governmental agency. It should be noted that this exception does not pertain to sidewalks or streets, as they are covered by separate exceptions to the general rule of governmental immunity under 42 Pa. C.S. § 8542(b)(6) & (7). The real property exception pertains to any other real property in the possession of the local governmental agency, such as walkways, interior floors and hallways, staircases, parking lots, etc. Thus, where a defective condition is present on real property in the possession of the local governmental agency due to the local governmental agency's negligence, and that condition causes an injury, the person injured may be able to pursue a negligence claim against the local governmental agency.

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. Fortunately the wording in this exception 'the care, custody or control of real property" is the most liberal language used in any of the exceptions to the general rule of immunity. For example the exceptions for sidewalks and streets to the general rule of immunity contains the language "a dangerous condition of" sidewalks or streets. For an injured person to be able to bring a claim against a local governmental agency under the street or sidewalk exceptions, the defect or dangerous condition that causes a person to slip or trip on a sidewalk or street must be caused by a defect or dangerous condition with the sidewalk or street itself.

Dangerous conditions laying on top of the sidewalk or street, such as a banana peel, snow, ice, rock salt, etc. are not considered dangerous conditions caused by the sidewalk or street itself and thus, have been held by the courts to not fall within the strict language of the sidewalk or street exceptions to the general rule of immunity. Fortunately, the legislature used the more liberal term "care, custody or control of" for the real property exception. Thus, this exception includes injuries caused by negligent care, negligent custody or negligent control of real property, which in addition to defective conditions of the real property itself (such as cracks in the pavement) this exception also includes dangerous conditions on top of walking surfaces, such as a banana peel, grease, snow, ice, rock salt, etc. and where the dangerous condition of or on top of the real property causes injuries to a person, the local governmental agency may be liable.

If an injured person's claim does fall within the real property 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 real property in the possession of a local governmental agency, such as the City of Philadelphia, a local township or school district due to a dangerous or defective condition and is injured, they should contact a Philadelphia personal injury attorney with over 20 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, clean, maintain and repair the real property in question.