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JUNE WALTERS AND ROBERT L. WALTERS v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (04/11/84)

decided: April 11, 1984.

JUNE WALTERS AND ROBERT L. WALTERS, APPELLANTS
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION ET AL., APPELLEES



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in the case of June Walters and Robert L. Walters, her husband v. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation; and Don Rore, an adult individual, individually and t/a/d/b/a Country Bar and and Bar-B-Q. No. GD 82-15591.

COUNSEL

Michael A. Karaffa, with him Bart M. Beier, Beier & Karaffa, for appellants.

Frank J. Micale, Deputy Attorney General, with him Herbert L. Olivieri, Chief, Tort Litigation Unit, and LeRoy S. Zimmerman, Attorney General, for appellees.

Judges Williams, Jr., Craig and Colins, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.

Author: Craig

[ 81 Pa. Commw. Page 479]

June and Robert L. Walters, husband and wife, appeal an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, which granted a motion for judgment on the pleadings in the Walters' tort action against the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. We must determine whether the trial court erred when it concluded that the Walters' suit was barred by sovereign immunity.

In August, 1980, Mrs. Walters was injured in a two-car collision, which occurred on U.S. Route 22 in Westmoreland County. DOT had suspended the operating privileges of the driver of the other car, William Doberich, after he had been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol. Doberich, who was killed in the accident, was uninsured, although he did have a valid Pennsylvania license plate and registration card.

[ 81 Pa. Commw. Page 480]

The Walters sued DOT, alleging that Mrs. Walters' injuries were the result of DOT's negligence in failing to obtain physical custody of Doberich's driver's license, and allowing him to possess a license plate and registration card. The court of common pleas granted DOT's motion for judgment on the pleadings,*fn1 concluding that the alleged acts of negligence did not arguably fall within any of the eight statutory exceptions to sovereign immunity found in 42 Pa. C.S. ยง 8522(b).

Before this court, the Walters contend that their case fits within three of those statutory exceptions, specifically the provisions covering motor vehicles, personal property, and dangerous conditions of highways.

The exception covering vehicle liability provides in relevant part:

(b) Act which may impose liability. -- The following acts by a Commonwealth party may result in the imposition of liability on the Commonwealth and the defense of sovereign immunity shall not be raised to claims for damages caused by:

(1) Vehicle liability. -- The operation of any motor vehicle in the possession or control of a ...


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