The City of Philadelphia, as well as all cities, municipalities and townships in Pennsylvania are "local governmental agencies." As a local governmental agency, the The City of Philadelphia, as well as all cities, municipalities and townships 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 streets owned by the local governmental agency. 42 Pa. C.S. § 8542(b)(6) holds that a local governmental agency may be liable for injuries caused by a dangerous condition of streets owned by a local governmental agency. Thus, where the street in question is owned by the City of Philadelphia or local municipality or township, a person injured on that street may be able to pursue a
negligence claim against the local governmental agency that owns the street.
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 street exception the courts have held the language "a dangerous condition of streets" 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 street itself. In layman's terms, the defect or dangerous condition that causes a person to slip or trip on the street must be caused by a defect or dangerous condition with the street itself. For example, dangerous slippery conditions laying on top of the street, such as an oil stain, snow, ice, rock salt, etc. are not considered dangerous conditions caused by the street itself and thus, have been held by the courts to not fall within the strict language of the street exception to the general rule of immunity.
Examples where the dangerous condition was caused by the street itself, and thus falling within the street exception to the rule of general immunity, are where a person trips and falls over a section of cracked or broken pavement making the street unlevel and a tripping hazard. An example where a person who slips and falls on ice on a street that would fall within the street exception to the general rule of immunity is where a pothole or broken section of street creates a depression 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 street surface itself, i.e. the cracked, broken pavement 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, municipality or local township that owns the street.
If an injured person's claim does fall within the street exception to the general rule of immunity, then the local governmental agency may be required to compensate the injured person up to the statutory liability limit of $500,000, pursuant to 42 Pa. C.S. §8553.
Whenever a person slips and falls or trips and falls on a street due to a dangerous or defective condition and is injured, they should contact an experienced Philadelphia personal injury attorney 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 street in question.