Find Real Estate Agents and Homes for Sale

Real Estate News --> Pennsylvania News

Pennsylvania Can Be Held Liable for Injuries Caused by Guardrail in Crash

an invitee on Commonwealth real estate would expect a guardrail alongside the road to prevent or minimize harm, not to ‘spear’ her and cause ‘significantly more severe injuries,'” Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Christine Donohue wrote in the ...

Archived Story

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that the state’s department of transportation (PennDOT) can be held liable for injuries caused by an allegedly dangerous guardrail on a Pennsylvania highway. The court found that under the state’s Sovereign Immunity Act, exemptions for sovereign immunity apply to damages caused by the guardrail, which was erected on state property. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is typically subject to immunity from suits seeking damages due to negligence, except under certain circumstancesSection 8522(a) of the Act waives immunity for damages due to negligence in which the damages would be recoverable under common law or a statute creating a cause of action if the injury was caused by someone who was not eligible for sovereign immunity. In this case, the supreme court found that when PennDOT installs a guardrail, sovereign immunity is waived if the agency’s negligent installation and design creates a dangerous condition. “…an invitee on Commonwealth real estate would expect a guardrail alongside the road to prevent or minimize harm, not to ‘spear’ her and cause ‘significantly more severe injuries,'” Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Christine Donohue wrote in the majority opinion. Case Background This case comes after Joisse and Dale Cagey filed a negligence action against PennDOT on June 22, 2015. In their complaint, the Cageys alleged that on January 26, 2015, they encountered snow and ice along State Route 551 in Beaver County, PennAs a result of the conditions, Joisse lost control of their vehicle, which spun off the road and slammed into an adjacent guardrailThe guardrail pierced the vehicle’s side, resulting in injuries to Joisse, including toe, foot and leg fractures, according to Donohue in the majority opinion document. The Cageys sought damages for Joisse’s injuries and for Dale’s loss of consortium, the opinion document statedThey alleged their damages were due to PennDOT’s negligent installation of a guardrail and its failure to inspect or correct the issue. On September 8, 2015, PennDOT filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that the Sovereign Immunity Act prevented it from liability for the Cageys’ claimsThe Cageys then filed a reply, conceding that the trial court was bound by existing Commonwealth Court decisions interpreting the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling in 2000 over Dean vDep’t of Transp., the opinion document saidIn the Dean case, the supreme court held that PennDOT is not responsible for erecting guardrails along Pennsylvania roadways. On December 4, 2015, the trial court granted PennDOT’s motion for judgment on the pleadingsThe Cageys then appealed to the Commonwealth Court, arguing that its prior decisions have improperly expanded the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s holding in the Dean case, the opinion document stated. Sovereign Immunity Argument The Commonwealth Court affirmed the trial court’s order granting PennDOT’s motion, explaining that its decisions after the Dean case “represent a logical and reasonable application of principles set forth by our Supreme Court, which have gone uncontradicted by our legislature,” according to the opinion document. On appeal, the Cageys argued that the Dean case does not apply to the facts of this case, because it only establishes that the Commonwealth’s failure to install a guardrail does not lead to a waiver of sovereign immunityThey contended that the Commonwealth Court has interpreted the facts of the Dean case to mean that a dangerous and defective guardrail is legally equivalent to the absence of a guardrail, according to Donohue’s opinion document. The Cageys also argued that section 8522(b)(4) of the Sovereign Immunity Act creates a real estate exception, rather than separate highway and real estate exceptions, which imposes liability for injuries caused by any dangerous conditions on Commonwealth real estateBecause in common law, an owner of land would be held liable for the installation of a dangerous guardrail adjacent to a highway, the Cageys asserted that the General Assembly intended PennDOT to be liable in this case, the opinion document said. PennDOT, however, argued that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in Dean meant the failure to install a guardrail had nothing to do with road travel safety, according to the opinion document. Because the guardrail in the Cageys’ case did not affect their ability to travel safely on the road, PennDOT argued it can’t be held liable for injuries caused by it, regardless of whether it was negligently designed and installed, Donohue wrote in the opinion document. PennDOT also contended there is a difference between its responsibility to keep all Commonwealth real estate safe for its intended use and its particular responsibility to keep the portion of the highway safe that is used for vehicular travel, according to the opinion documentWhile PennDOT conceded that the Dean ruling stated it doesn’t have a responsibility to install guardrails, it argued the underlying meaning of that decision is that it doesn’t have a responsibility to ensure the safety of vehicles that spin off of the roadway. Pennsylvania Supreme Court Decision In its decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court stated that in order for liability to be imposed on PennDOT, three statutory requirements must be metThe injury must have resulted from a dangerous condition, the dangerous condition must be a condition of Commonwealth agency real estate and the damages must be recoverable under common law if the injury were caused by someone who was not subject to sovereign immunity. The Cageys claimed that the guardrail causing their injuries was a dangerous condition, and it was installed adjacent to a highway under PennDOT’s jurisdiction. “It is a well settled tenet of property law that whatever is annexed to the land becomes land,” Donohue wrote in the majority opinion“Here, PennDOT undertook to permanently install guardrails alongside the highwayAccordingly, the guardrails, which are physically attached to the land, became fixtures thereof and thus part of the land itself.” Because of this, the court found that the guardrail was a condition of Commonwealth agency real estateThe court also found that in common law, “a possessor of land is liable for harm caused by a dangerous condition that he would have discovered through the exercise of reasonable care.” The allegation that the guardrails were negligently inspected and installed meets the final common law requirement, according to the supreme court. With this in mind, the supreme court ruled that sovereign immunity is waived, and PennDOT may be held liable for any damages caused by the negligent installation or design of the guardrail in this case. “Having found that the Cageys’ allegations fit squarely within the Sovereign Immunity Act’s real estate exception, we conclude that PennDOT is not immune from suit,” Donohue stated in the majority opinion. The supreme court reversed the decision of the Commonwealth Court and remanded for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. Want to stay up to date? Get the latest insurance newssent straight to your inbox. Submit Email This Subscribe to Newsletter Email to a friend Facebook Tweet LinkedIn Print Article Categories: East NewsTopics: car accident, Christine Donohue, Commonwealth Court, Dale Cagey, guardrail, Joisse Cagey, negligent inspection, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Pennsylvania Supreme Court, sovereign immunity, trail court Have a hot lead? Email us at Advertisers Add a CommentSee All Comments (0)Add a Comment Cancel reply Your email address will not be publishedRequired fields are marked * Name *Email *Comment Notify me of comments via e-mail More NewsPennsylvania Can Be Held Liable for Injuries Caused by Guardrail in CrashComing Soon: New Global Workplace Safety StandardFor U.SDoctors, Being Sued Is Common AilmentSmith & Wesson Gun Maker CEO Defends Safety EffortsMore News Features Read This Next Pennsylvania Can Be Held Liable for Injuries Caused by Guardrail in Crash NTSB: Drugs, Phone Use May Have Caused 2015 Arkansas Rail Yard Death Suit Over Woman's Fall at Party Reaches Michigan Supreme Court Nurse in Hawaii Awarded Nearly $4M For Harassment Validus Specialty Expands Commercial D&O Portfolio; Zurich's McAdams Named SrU/W Insurance JobsInsurance Agent for Construction Contractors - Van Nuys, CASpecial Investigations Attorney - San DiegoProfessional Liability (E&O) Producer - Cleveland, OHAgency Technical Trainer - Tampa, FLPersonal Lines CSR - Rancho Cucamonga, CA Medical Marijuana Gaining Favor as Treatment in Workers' Compensation Commercial Auto Market Still Facing Uphill Climb What to Expect in Workers' Compensation Pricing in 2018 EPLI Claims Reach Tipping Point Amid Anti-Sexual Harassment Movement Top 10 Employment Discrimination Charges in 2017 --> Family Sues Firms Involved in 2016 South Dakota Building Collapse Michigan Supreme Court to Hear Holiday Party Injury Case Chemical Firms Say Gulf Coast Needs $14B Storm Barrier Arctic Not so Chill, Warmest Winter Ever Recorded Kentucky Medical Marijuana Bill Shelved After Opposition Jan 11 Common Additional Insured TrapsJan 18 Equipment Floaters: Beyond BoilerplateFeb 1 Servant LeadershipFeb 8 Building Your Personal Brand Insurance News News by Region News by Topic Yesterday Site Search Features Insurance Markets Directory Forums A.MBest Company Ratings Industry Events Agencies Wanted / For Sale Buyers Guide Newswire Ad Showcase Insurance Jobs Connect with us Email Newsletters Magazine Subscriptions For Your Website RSS Feeds Twitter Facebook LinkedIn Insurance Journal Submit News Advertise Subscribe Reprints Link to Us Contact Us Wells Media Group Network Insurance Journal Claims Journal Insurance Journal TV Academy of Insurance Carrier Management

Trending Pennsylvania News:

  • Pennsylvania investor continues to sell suburban Milwaukee office buildings
  • Some in NEPA continue search for a catchier regional brand
  • Real Estate – February 16
  • Clairton hopes to benefit from sale
  • Philly-area malls report strong holiday traffic
  • Real-Life Real Estate Advice: How To Buy a Dreamy Historic Home
  • Realtor joins local firm
  • Pennsylvania Vape Tax Brings In Millions, But Leads To Closure Of 100-Plus Businesses
  • Nonprofit tax break proposal in Pennsylvania divisive
  • Real Estate Industry Loses Veteran Joe Stettinius
  • Obituary: William Marra / Pittsburgh-area builder, founder of Amarraca Supermarket
  • Canon-Mcmillan, PA Real Estate: Newly Listed Homes for Sale
  • Real Estate – October 18
  • PREIT to Present at REITWeek® 2016: NAREIT's Investor Forum
  • Bethlehem, PA Real Estate: Foreclosures
  • Narberth, PA Homes For Sale & Real Estate
  • Skanska Renovates Shopping Mall in Philadelphia, USA, for USD 61M, About SEK 520M
  • William Penn not to exceed Act 1 index
  • Guardian Storage plans five more facilities for southwestern Pennsylvania
  • Chambersburg, Waynesboro named top retirement spots