Sovereign Immunity Denies Claim Despite Lack of Guardrails

Posted on: June 26th, 2012       Attorney Thomas Newell

A 2009 Opinion of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania upheld a trial judge’s decision to dismiss a Pennsylvania car accident claim. A teenager was driving a car which left the highway and crashed into a tree. She died as a result of the crash. A Pennsylvania car crash lawyer filed a wrongful death claim against Penn DOT and another occupant of the automobile.

The defense attorney filed a Motion for Summary Judgment which was granted by the Somerset County Court of Common Pleas. Since the victim’s Estate could not prove that a dangerous condition of the highway itself caused the car to leave the roadway, sovereign immunity prevented a claim against Penn DOT from succeeding.

The Pennsylvania personal injury attorney filed an appeal arguing that PennDOT’s failure to have guardrails or reflective markings on the shoulder of the road contributed to the cause of the crash. The Commonwealth Court ruled that the Estate of the Pennsylvania car crash victim did not present facts sufficient to meet the real estate exception to sovereign immunity. Pritts v. Comm. Dept. of Transp., 969 A.2d 1 (Pa.Cmwlth. 2009)

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