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JOHN CHAMBERS v. SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY (08/31/89)

decided: August 31, 1989.

JOHN CHAMBERS, APPELLANT,
v.
SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY, APPELLEE



Appeal from Common Pleas Court, Philadelphia County, Honorable Samuel Lehrer, Judge.

COUNSEL

Allan Jaffe and Timothy R. Hough, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Ronald A. White, P.C., Karen Spencer Kelly, and Stanley J. Sinowitz, Philadelphia, for appellee.

Colins and Palladino, JJ., and Barbieri, Senior Judge.

Author: Palladino

[ 128 Pa. Commw. Page 370]

John Chambers (Appellant) appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County (trial court) granting Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority's (SEPTA) motion for summary judgment relying on to 42 Pa.C.S. § 8522. For the reasons stated below, we affirm.

On September 15, 1986, Appellant and two friends boarded SEPTA's Broad Street subway at City Hall in order to attend an "AC-DC" rock concert at the Spectrum. About three stops before Pattison Avenue (the stop at the Spectrum) nine loud and rowdy youths boarded the subway train and began making derogatory remarks about Appellant's female companion. Upon exiting the train at Pattison Avenue, the youths followed Appellant, continuing the harassment with increasing profanity. A physical confrontation eventually ensued during which the Appellant was knocked unconscious and sustained a serious injury to his right eye.

Appellant filed a complaint on March 30, 1987, alleging that SEPTA was negligent by failing to provide adequate lighting and security patrols and failing to warn Appellant and others of the unsafe conditions on its premises. SEPTA filed an answer and new matter, raising the defense of

[ 128 Pa. Commw. Page 371]

    immunity.*fn1 SEPTA filed a motion for summary judgment alleging that it was a commonwealth party, immune from suit under 42 Pa.C.S. § 8521, and that none of the exceptions set forth in 42 Pa.C.S. § 8522 were applicable. Appellant's response alleged that SEPTA was not a commonwealth party and even if SEPTA was a commonwealth party, SEPTA was liable under the real estate exception, 42 Pa.C.S. § 8522(b)(4). The trial court granted SEPTA's motion for summary judgment. Appellant appeals from this order.

Appellant raises three issues in this appeal: (1) whether SEPTA is a commonwealth party for the purposes of the defense of immunity; (2) whether the complaint states a cause of action under the real estate exception to immunity; and (3) whether summary judgment should have been denied because there are issues of material fact outstanding.

Appellant argues that for the purposes of the defense of immunity, SEPTA is not a commonwealth party, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision in Feingold v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, 512 Pa. 567, 517 A.2d 1270 (1986) is not controlling. In Feingold a motorist brought an action against SEPTA for injuries suffered when his vehicle was hit by a bus. A jury trial on the issue of damages followed, resulting in an award of both compensatory and punitive damages. The relevant issue before the supreme court was whether the award of punitive damages was proper. Punitive damages are generally not available against government agencies. Feingold, 512 Pa. at 579, 517 A.2d at 1276. After reviewing the various statutes under which SEPTA operated, the court concluded ...


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