Municipal Liability – Sovereign Immunity – Governmental Immunity – When You Can Sue the City and for What

In Pennsylvania, the law limits when you can sue the State or a municipality, including the City of Philadelphia. The concept of “sovereign immunity” provides a defense for both the State, or Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and municipal governments, unless a statutory exception applies. The exceptions to the State’s immunity are detailed at 42 Pa.C.S. § 8522 and the exceptions to the immunity of municipal or local governments are detailed at 42 Pa.C.S. § 8542.

The exceptions that allow a claimant to sue the City include the City’s negligence pertaining to vehicles, streets and sidewalks, amongst others. Therefore, although the law limits the cases in which you can sue the City for negligence, if you were injured in a car accident with a City vehicle, or in a slip and fall on a City street or sidewalk, you have the right to pursue a claim.

Even when you can pursue a claim against the City, a municipality or the State, there are laws that limit the amount of damages you can recover. 42 Pa.C.S. § 8528 specifies the limitations on damages that apply to cases against governments. Essentially, a claimant can recover up to $250,000 for a claim against the City for lost earnings, pain and suffering, medical expenses, loss of consortium and property loss.

Other common concerns and issues in cases involving City property include the fact that when there is a dangerous condition on a City sidewalk, the plaintiff must prove that the City had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition. This is often accomplished by gathering police reports or work logs from local utility agencies, in order to prove that City workers had been out to the location on prior occasions, would have seen the dangerous condition, and did nothing about it. Further, a plaintiff should consider filing suit against the property owner at the location of the dangerous condition, in addition to the City, as the City is only secondarily liable, and it is the property owner who is primarily liable, 42 Pa.C.S. § 8542(b)(7).

If you have been injured on City property (including on any street or sidewalk in the City) or due to the negligence of a City employee, or in an auto accident involving a City vehicle, call an attorney with the knowledge and experience to get you the best possible result. Contact McMonagle Perri today.