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WILLIAM JAMES v. SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY (05/24/84)

decided: May 24, 1984.

WILLIAM JAMES, APPELLEE,
v.
SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY, APPELLANT



No. 88 E.D. Appeal Docket, 1983, Appeal from the Judgment of Superior Court of Pennsylvania at No. 2308 Philadelphia, 1981 dated March 11, 1983, reversing and remanding Order of the Court of Common Pleas - Civil Division Philadelphia, at No. 1395, May Term, 1977, Pa. Super. , Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ. Zappala, J., files a concurring opinion. Hutchinson, J., concurs in the result. Larsen, J., files a dissenting opinion.

Author: Flaherty

[ 505 Pa. Page 140]

OPINION OF THE COURT

On May 7, 1975 William James, the plaintiff-appellee in this case, allegedly fell and sustained injuries while walking on stairs owned and maintained by SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority). He filed a summons and complaint against SEPTA, and SEPTA answered and raised new matter alleging that James had not given the proper notice of the injury as was required by the Metropolitan Transportation Authorities Act. Section 2036 of that act, now repealed, provided:

Limitation of actions against authority

Within six months from the date that any injury was received, or any cause of action accrued, any person who is about to commence any civil action in any court against the authority for damages on account of any injury to his person shall file in the office of the secretary of the board, and also in the office of the chief counsel for the authority, either by himself, his agent, or attorney, a statement in writing, signed by himself, his agent, or attorney, giving the name of the person to whom the cause of action has accrued, the name and residence of the person injured, the date, and about the hour of the accident, the place or location where the accident occurred,

[ 505 Pa. Page 141]

    and the name and address of the attending physician, if any. If the notice provided for [in] this section is not filed as provided, any civil action commenced against the authority more than six months after the date of injury, shall be dismissed and the person to whom any such cause of action accrued for any personal injury shall be forever barred from further suing.

66 P.S. § 2036.*fn1

Although James argued that he had given the statutorily required notice through his original attorney, who was

[ 505 Pa. Page 142]

    deceased at the time of this action, SEPTA put in evidence that it never received such notice. The trial court determined that SEPTA had not received the required notice and granted SEPTA's motion for summary judgment without addressing James' claim that the notice statute violated "equal protection of the law, due process of law, and the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of Pennsylvania." A panel of Superior Court, 312 Pa. Superior Ct. 512, 459 A.2d 338, reversed, Judge Wieand dissenting, holding that the six month notice requirement of the Metropolitan Transportation Authorities Act violated the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution.

We granted allocatur primarily to determine whether provisions of the Pennsylvania or the United States Constitution were violated by the notice statute in question. There is, of course, a presumption of constitutionality attaching to any lawfully enacted legislation. Should the constitutionality of such legislation be challenged, the challenger must meet the burden of rebutting the presumption of constitutionality by a clear, palpable, and plain demonstration that the statute violates a constitutional provision.

[ 505 Pa. Page 143]

James' challenge to the notice provision, however, is also grounded on the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Art. I, § 26 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The relevant portion of the Fourteenth Amendment provides: "No State shall . . . deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Art. I, § 26 of the Pennsylvania Constitution provides:

Neither the Commonwealth nor any political subdivision thereof shall deny to any person the enjoyment of any civil right, nor discriminate against any ...


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