No Liability in PA Car Crash

Posted on: June 26th, 2012       Attorney Thomas Newell

A 2010 legal opinion of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania affirmed an Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas decision which granted a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC).  A man was driving eastbound on the Pennsylvania Turnpike when his automobile hydroplaned on the wet highway, spun off the road and struck a guardrail.  A portion of the guardrail went into the car, hitting the car accident victim and resulting in a massive loss of blood which caused his death.

The Estate of the Pennsylvania personal injury victim filed a lawsuit versus the PA Turnpike Commission alleging a negligent design of the guardrail.  The PTC asserted a defense of Sovereign Immunity.  The Appeals Court agreed that the car accident victim’s Estate had not proved that a dangerous condition of the road itself caused the driver to lose control of the car.  The Commonwealth Court also re-affirmed prior decisions which noted that the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has no legal duty to erect guardrails.  Therefore, any guardrails which it voluntarily installs can’t be challenged due to alleged design defects.  Stein v. Pennsylvania Turnpike Com’n, 989 A.2d 80 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2010)

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