Slip and Falls, Trip and Falls on Streets and State Roads Owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Slip and Falls, Trip and Falls on Streets and State Roads Owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Posted By Law Offices of Thomas J. Murphy || 3-Oct-2011

Pennsylvania is technically a Commonwealth and not a State. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is immune from law suits 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 two of them involves streets, roads and highways owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.. 42 Pa. C.S. § 8522(b)(4) holds that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania may be liable for injuries caused by a dangerous condition of streets, roads and highways owned or possessed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 42 Pa. C.S. § 8522(b)(5) holds that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania may be liable for injuries caused by a dangerous condition of Commonwealth streets, roads and highways created by potholes or sinkholes or other similar conditions created by natural elements, except that for the injured person to recover, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania must have had actual written notice of the pothole or sinkhole a sufficient time prior to the plaintiff's injury to have had time to repair the dangerous condition. Thus, where the street or road such as a state route or a state highway in question is owned or possessed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania a person injured while walking on or crossing that road may be able to pursue a negligence claim against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

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 street exception the courts have held the language "a dangerous condition of" a Commonwealth street, road or highway 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 the road 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 roadway itself. For example, dangerous conditions laying on top of the roadway such as a banana peel, spilled oil or liquid, 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 roadway itself, and thus fall within the street exception to the rule of general immunity, are where a person trips and falls over a cracked, broken or raised section of street, making the walking surface unlevel and a tripping hazard.

An example where a person who slips and falls on ice on a Commonwealth street or roadway that would fall within the sidewalk/real property exception to the general rule of immunity is where a cracked, broken section of street 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 street itself, i.e. the cracked, broken blacktop 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 Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. However, as stated in Pothole exception, if a person is injured due to a pothole or sinkhole, that person must prove that the Commonwealth had actual written notice of the hole prior to that person being injured and that the Commonwealth failed to timely repair the pothole prior to that person's injury, which can be difficult to prove.

If an injured person's claim does fall within the street or pothole exceptions to the general rule of immunity, then the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania 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 due to a dangerous or defective condition with the walking surface 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 street, sidewalk or walkway in question.