SW Legal studies in Business

Disabled Passenger Injured When Attempting to Board Public Bus May Not Sue
Description

Appeals court held that sovereign immunity protected a public transit authority from suit in a case where a disabled passenger fell from his wheelchair when attempting to get on a bus and the wheelchair ramp was not properly deployed. Since the bus was not moving, it was not a vehicle subject to sovereign immunity exception.

Topic Torts
Key Words

Negligence; Sovereign Immunity; Vehicle Exception

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Mannella, who must use a wheelchair, attempted to board a bus provided by a public transit authority (PTA) in Pennsylvania. He alleged that the bus driver negligently deployed the bus wheelchair ramp unevenly with the ground, causing him to fall out of his wheelchair and sustain serious injuries. He sued for negligence. The PTA defended that it could not be sued due to sovereign immunity. The trial court rejected that argument, noting that there is an exception to sovereign immunity in the case of moving public vehicles. The PTA appealed.

Decision

Reversed and remanded. The PTA is a state agency entitled to sovereign immunity, subject to exceptions in the Sovereign Immunity Act. Those exceptions are construed strictly and narrowly. The vehicle exception to sovereign immunity does not apply in this instance. The bus was stopped; it was not moving. Mannella fell before he got on the bus, so he was not a passenger on a moving vehicle covered by an exception to sovereign immunity. He has no suit.

Citation Mannella v. Port Authority of Allegheny County,, ---A.2d--- (2009 WL 3176028, Comm. Ct., Pa., 2009)

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