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Phillips v. Washington County Transportation Authority

December 14, 2009

JONATHAN C. PHILLIPS, BY MARI B. PHILLIPS, HIS ATTORNEY IN FACT, APPELLANTS
v.
WASHINGTON COUNTY TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY; OSCAR V. COLE; SOUTHWESTERN PA AREA AGENCY ON AGING, INC.; RUBIN SABATINE; AND WASHINGTON COUNTY AGING SERVICES



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Senior Judge Flaherty

Argued: October 13, 2009

BEFORE: HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge, HONORABLE ROCHELLE FRIEDMAN, Senior Judge, HONORABLE JIM FLAHERTY, Senior Judge.

OPINION

Jonathan C. Phillips, (Appellant), by Mari B. Phillips, (Phillips) his attorney in fact, appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County (trial court) which, on September 19, 2008, granted the motions for summary judgment filed by Washington County Transportation Authority (WCTA), Southwestern Pennsylvania Area Agency on Aging, Inc. (SPAAA), Rubin Sabatine (Sabatine), and Washington County Aging Services (WCAS), to counts I, III, IV, and V of Appellant's amended complaint and dismissed such counts; and from the order of the trial court which, on February 4, 2009, granted the motion to discontinue with prejudice as to Appellee, Oscar V. Cole (Cole).*fn1 We affirm.

Appellant was born in 1974 and at the time of the events giving rise to his claims, he was thirty-one years old. Appellant suffered from mild mental retardation since infancy due to physical abuse inflicted by his biological parents. He was adopted by Mari and David Phillips in 1982. Immediately prior to the motor vehicle accident on April 15, 2005, Appellant was able to live virtually independently. He lived alone and was able to care for himself in most respects, to include bathing himself and preparing simple meals without a stove. Appellant participated in the Special Olympics and cared for a pet. Appellant had an IQ of 57. He was unable to maintain a bank account and was virtually unable to read and write. Appellant did not and never has had a driver's license.

In 2002, Appellant began working for The Woods Quality Cabinetry Company in Eighty-Four, Pennsylvania, which was approximately twenty miles from his home. Due to his inability to drive, Phillips entered into an oral agreement with WCTA to transport Appellant every working day from his home to his workplace in the morning and from his workplace to his home every evening.

On June 29, 2004, WCTA entered into a contract with SPAAA regarding the provision of transportation services to "the general public, persons with disabilities, to senior citizens age 65 and over, to persons receiving medical assistance, and to low income individuals for child care and employment purposes." WCTA/SPAAA Agreement (Agreement), at 1; Reproduced Record (R.R.) at 40a. The contract provided that:

III. SCOPE OF WORK

A. Services to be Provided [SPAAA] shall deliver transportation services as directed by WCTA.

[SPAAA] shall deliver all trips assigned to it by WCTA, including wheelchair trips, and [SPAAA] shall supply sufficient vehicles and personnel as necessary to meet WCTA's needs and render said services on such days and such hours as directed by WCTA.

***

In addition to supplying a sufficient number of vehicles and trained drivers, [SPAAA] shall employ or engage adequate management and support personnel to assure WCTA of continuous, reliable services (during normal weather conditions) and shall provide dispatching services and radio communication with [SPAAA] vehicles and telephone communication with WCTA at all times regular service is being provided..

***

B. Training [SPAAA] shall ensure that all employees and contracted personnel engaged in service delivery are "trained to proficiency." Specifically [SPAAA] shall ensure that the drivers, dispatchers, supervisors, and managers assigned to this project must meet the minimum training standards as reasonably established by WCTA, and any additional training as required by WCTA. All training costs shall be the [SPAAA]'s responsibility.

IX. OPERATING STANDARDS

***

The [SPAAA] shall render transportation in accordance with the following operating standards and procedures:

1. [SPAAA] shall at all times render safe, courteous service in accordance with all applicable laws, ordinances, and regulations.

***

15. Service to be provided is door-to-door. This means that WCTA passengers who need and request assistance shall receive it, between the door of the passenger's pick-up point and the door of the vehicle. Assistance includes help with small packages. It does not include lifting a passenger, going into a residence, or taking a wheelchair up or down steps.

Agreement at 2-7; R.R. at 41a-46a. The contract further provided that SPAAA "at all times shall be an independent contractor," and that SPAAA "shall indemnify, protect and hold. WCTA .harmless" relative to claims arising out of its provision of transportation ...


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