Broken Sidewalk Raises Questions of Liability

Sometimes all it takes is one look. That's all it took when Pittsburgh News-Gazette columnist Lawrence Walsh was asked to examine a life-threatening problem with a Mount Washington sidewalk.

Walsh went to Boggs Avenue near Warrington Avenue after being contacted by concerned area residents. What Walsh found indeed threatens the safety of pedestrians: the sidewalk is blocked in three spots by various obstacles including broken concrete, overgrown vegetation and busted sidewalk slabs.

The residents told Walsh they worried that the hazards would result in a tragedy like the one this past summer with a 36-year-old mother. The woman was struck by a SUV as she pushed her son and daughter in a double stroller; though her children were unharmed, she died later of head injuries.

Municipal Liability for Injuries and Fatalities

Though many crashes resulting in injuries or fatalities are solely the responsibility of the driver involved, a number involve municipal liability; that is, the city or other local government entity is held liable for damages caused by hazards such as broken sidewalks, potholes or crumbling public buildings.

Here in Pennsylvania, there are eight areas of municipal tort liability (areas in which municipalities can be held legally responsible for damages), involving the following:

  • City vehicles
  • Care, custody or control of property
  • Real property (land, buildings, building fixtures)
  • Trees, street lights and traffic controls
  • Utility service facilities
  • Streets
  • Sidewalks
  • Care, custody and control of animals

Family Protection

If you or a member of your family has been harmed because of city negligence or neglect in the care of property, contact a Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer for a case evaluation. A personal injury attorney assesses the facts of the matter and advises you of your legal options.