In general, there are two issues to consider when handling a fall accident at the Philadelphia airport. First, there is the issue of identifying the correct party. This is important because under Pennsylvania law, government entities are generally immune from liability, i.e., cannot be sued for tort claims like fall accidents. Philadelphia’s airport is managed and operated by the City of Philadelphia, a government entity. Second, there is the issue of notice, or whether the responsible party either knew about the defective condition, or should have known about it.
Tort Claims Act – The Real Property Exception
Success of a lawsuit for an accident and injury at the Philadelphia airport depends on the status of the defendant. That’s because a special law, known as the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act (Act) is likely to apply. The City of Philadelphia maintains control over the airport. This includes the outside areas and attached parking garages. The Act is important in an airport accident case because it limits liability of the City to specific situations. In fall accident cases against government entities such as the City, liability must be based on negligence in the care, custody or control of real property or things which are affixed to the property. Section 8542(b)(3) of the Act details the real property exception law:
The care, custody or control of real property in the possession of the local agency, except that the local agency shall not be liable for damages on account of any injury sustained by a person intentionally trespassing on real property in the possession of the local agency. As used in this paragraph, “real property” shall not include:
(i) trees, traffic signs, lights and other traffic controls, street lights and street lighting systems;
(ii) facilities of steam, sewer, water, gas and electric systems owned by the local agency and located within rights-of-way;
(iii) streets; or
The key in airport fall accident cases is whether the thing that caused the accident was real property or was otherwise affixed to the property. Things such as carpeting, light fixtures, stairs, etc., are likely to qualify under the exception. However, water on the floor in the bathroom will not qualify.
It’s important to note that this law only applies to government entities. It does not apply to private businesses which operate in the airport. There are many retail stores and restaurants in the airport. If a private business was responsible for maintaining the area where the accident occurred, the business may be liable instead of the City. Each case varies, and it’s important to have a lawyer review the facts and investigate the case as soon as possible.
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