Like most states, Pennsylvania only allows government entities to be sued in limited situations. In Pennsylvania, there are two laws which detail liability of government entities: the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act (local and county entities) and the Sovereign Immunity Act (Pennsylvania state entities).
State Versus Local Entity Liability in Pennsylvania
These two laws are very similar, but differ in some important ways. The primary difference is how much is recoverable against a state versus a local/county entity or agency. Under the Tort Claims Act, a local agency is liable up to a maximum of $500,000 per incident. Under the Sovereign Immunity Act, a state agency is liable up to a maximum of $250,000 per person, up to a total of $1,000,000 per accident. Examples of local agencies or entities include city and county governments. A common state entity sued under the Sovereign Immunity Act is SEPTA.
Government Liability for Sidewalk Accidents in Pennsylvania
A. State Agencies
State agencies can be held liable in sidewalk fall down (or trip and fall) accidents. The basis of the liability is a defect of the sidewalk or real property. The relevant portion of the Sovereign Immunity Act (42 Pa. C.S. § 8522(b)(4) ) provides:
“Commonwealth real estate, highways and sidewalks.–A dangerous condition of Commonwealth agency real estate and sidewalks, including Commonwealth-owned real property, leaseholds in the possession of a Commonwealth agency and Commonwealth-owned real property leased by a Commonwealth agency to private persons, and highways under the jurisdiction of a Commonwealth agency…”
B. Local Agencies
Local government agencies like the City of Philadelphia can also be held liable for sidewalk fall down (or trip and fall) accidents. Like liability of state agencies, the basis of local agency liability is a defect of the sidewalk. The relevant portion of the Tort Claims Act (42 Pa. C.S. § 8542 (b)(7)) provides:
“Sidewalks.–A dangerous condition of sidewalks within the rights-of-way of streets owned by the local agency, except that the claimant to recover must establish that the dangerous condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of the kind of injury which was incurred and that the local agency had actual notice or could reasonably be charged with notice under the circumstances of the dangerous condition at a sufficient time prior to the event to have taken measures to protect against the dangerous condition. When a local agency is liable for damages under this paragraph by reason of its power and authority to require installation and repair of sidewalks under the care, custody and control of other persons, the local agency shall be secondarily liable only and such other persons shall be primarily liable.”
For more information about government liability for sidewalk accidents in Pennsylvania, click here to access Part B of this article.
Related Philadelphia Pennsylvania Sidewalk Accident Legal Articles:
- Pennsylvania Sidewalk Slip, Trip and Fall Accident Liability
- Pennsylvania Sidewalk Accident Law – Defendants in a Sidewalk Accident Lawsuit
- Pennsylvania Sidewalk Accident Law – Local Government Liability
Philadelphia Slip and Fall Lawyers
The slip and fall accident lawyers at Schwartz & Blackman handle cases in the Pennsylvania and New Jersey area and always offer a free consultation:
- PA: Berks County, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County, Allentown, Lehigh Valley, Norristown, Philadelphia
- NJ: Atlantic County, Burlington County, Camden County, Gloucester County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Camden, Cherry Hill, New Jersey shore cities
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