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PA appeals court draws a line on question of negligence

There is a Pennsylvania statute on the books that declares that vehicles can't park on sidewalks. The intent of the law, according to the state Superior Court, is to keep pedestrians safe. That's all.

Because of the ruling, a woman who had sought to obtain compensation under a personal injury claim has been blocked in her efforts. The court says that even though her injury may have resulted in part because of a vehicle being parked on a sidewalk, the provisions of the law don't allow her to pursue her claim of negligence.

The case involves a woman who tripped and was hurt when she was getting out of an ambulance at Temple University Hospital. She had ridden in the emergency vehicle as a companion to her grandmother who was being taken to the facility.

Because there were no parking spaces available, ambulance company staff at the hospital apparently directed the ambulance driver to park on a 30-foot-wide sidewalk across from the entrance. When the woman stepped from the vehicle she stumbled.

The statute cited by the plaintiff outlaws stopping, standing and parking a vehicle on sidewalks in general. The woman argued that because the ambulance driver had done just that, and at company direction, that was negligence on its face.

But at trial, the jury was told by the court that there was no negligence per se because the woman wasn't a pedestrian. And when jurors were informed that the question of whether the ambulance had been parked illegally was not relevant to their considerations, they found there was no negligence.

The plaintiff appealed, contending that the statute should be read to also include protections for passengers who might use sidewalks to enter, exit, load or unload vehicles.

The appeals court disagreed and upheld the lower court.

Source: Post-Gazette.com, "Parking on sidewalk can cause legal woes," Max Mitchell, Oct. 25, 2013

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