A Franklin County judge has ruled against a plaintiff seeking to name the town of Waynesboro and PennDOT as defendants in her case. The plaintiff, Sara Hoover, was injured by a driver while attempting to use the crosswalk on Main Street of Waynesboro. Hoover claims that prior to entering the crosswalk, she used a button to activate a signal in the form of flashing lights to drivers indicating that the crosswalk was in use and to watch for pedestrians. In spite of this, she was struck by a pickup truck that drove through the crosswalk. Hoover was launched into a nearby telephone pole, suffering several injuries, including broken bones and teeth, and even kidney damage. Six months following the accident, Hoover took legal action against the driver, Waynesboro, and PennDOT.
Hoover's case alleged that both Waynesboro and PennDOT played a role in the accident. The lawsuit claims that Waynesboro did not properly clear obstructions that could have interfered with a driver's line of sight. The lawsuit also claims that both the crosswalk and warning lights were not situated in a location sufficient to protect pedestrians, and PennDOT should have been aware of this. These claims were evidenced by a detective report that found that a driver would be unable to see the lights for the crosswalk unless they were within less than 300 feet of the the crosswalk. The lights were blocked by both trees and a number of street signs.
The judge, however, ruled against the naming of Waynesboro and PennDOT as defendants, citing governmental immunity. The judge also pointed out that officials did not have enough notice prior to the accident that the crosswalk may have been dangerous. In addition, the sight line distances were in compliance with PennDOT's guidelines. However, following the accident, Waynesboro had trees trimmed and a utility pole moved to help improve the crosswalk's visibility. The township is also reportedly in talks to lower the speed limit as well.
Sovereign Immunity In Pennsylvania
Generally speaking ,when a person wishes to file a case against a private individual or business entity for personal injuries, they are typically only bound by the statute of limitations, which sets time limits on when one may pursue a civil action against them. However, when a person wants to name a state agency as a defendant in their case, they may encounter additional roadblocks. Pennsylvania upholds a doctrine of "sovereign immunity" as set forth in 42 Pa. C.S. § 8522. The law basically prevents citizens from pursuing civil actions against the state in cases where normally they would be able to recover damages from an incident based on negligence, with certain exceptions outlined.
Unfortunately for Hoover's case, the judge decided that her case did not fall within the bounds of exception for her to proceed. Hoover has since pushed forward for an appeal to a state court, however, for now, she has only been able to name the driver as the defendant in her case.
Contact a Pennsylvania Personal Injury Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured in Pennsylvania, contact the Brod Law Firm today.