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Helwig v. Commonwealth, Department of Transportation, Bureau of Driver Licensing

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

September 8, 2014

Jane Ann Helwig
v.
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation, Bureau of Driver Licensing, Appellant

Submitted July 18, 2014.

Page 154

Appealed from No. SA 13-851. Common Pleas Court of the County of Allegheny. Gallo, Senior Judge.

Philip M. Bricknell, Assistant Counsel, Harrisburg, for appellant.

BEFORE: HONORABLE RENÉ E COHN JUBELIRER, Judge, HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge, HONORABLE JAMES GARDNER COLINS, Senior Judge.

OPINION

ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge.

Page 155

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation, Bureau of Driver Licensing (DOT) seeks review of an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County (trial court) sustaining Jane Ann Helwig's (Licensee) statutory appeal from a recall of her operating privilege based on her seizure disorder. DOT argues the trial court erred in sustaining the appeal because Licensee did not prove she is medically competent to drive with substantial and competent evidence. Upon review, we affirm.

I. Background

Dr. Anne Josiah, M.D. (Reporting Doctor) completed a DOT questionnaire, Form DL-13 - Initial Reporting Form (Initial Report), noting Licensee has a seizure disorder and suffered a seizure in June 2013.[1]

Page 156

Upon receiving this information, DOT sent Licensee an official notice of recall. The notice informed Licensee that her license would be recalled, effective July 26, 2013, pursuant to Section 1519(c) of the Vehicle Code, 75 Pa. C.S. § 1519(c). The notice advised her that her license would remain recalled until she demonstrated her condition is well controlled. With the notice, DOT enclosed a questionnaire, Form DL-121 - Seizure Reporting Form, for Licensee to give to her healthcare provider to report on her medical condition.

Licensee filed a statutory appeal with the trial court. In her appeal, she stated:

The basis for this appeal is that my treating physician, James P. Valeriano, M.D., will provide a report and will testify, if required, that I have been free from seizures since the seizure referenced by the Notice of Driver's License Suspension [sic] and that I can safely operate a motor vehicle.

Reproduced Record (R.R.) at 4a. Dr. Valeriano (Treating Physician) completed DOT's Seizure Reporting Form (Seizure Report) on October 23, 2013.

The trial court held a de novo hearing. At the hearing, the trial court accepted into evidence DOT's packet of certified documents, which included the Initial Report. R.R. at 9a-10a, 20a-24a. There, Reporting Doctor indicated Licensee has a seizure disorder and suffered a seizure in June 2013. Id. at 9a, 20a. Notwithstanding, Reporting Doctor indicated Licensee should not lose her driving privilege, but noted her condition warrants further investigation of her competency to drive. Id. at 20a.

In addition, DOT offered[2] a copy of the Seizure Report. Id. at 11a, 25a-26a. In the Seizure Report, Treating Physician confirmed Licensee has an electrically diagnosed seizure disorder and suffered a seizure in June 2013. Nevertheless, he opined Licensee is " safe to drive." Id. at 14a, 26a. Although Treating Physician wrote additional notes, the trial court found them illegible. Id. at 13a-14a.

Ultimately, the trial court determined DOT did not meet its burden by a preponderance of the evidence that Licensee is not safe to drive. The trial court sustained Licensee's statutory appeal.

DOT filed a notice of appeal. In its concise statement of errors complained of on appeal, DOT asserted Licensee did not present substantial or competent evidence that rebutted the presumption of incompetence created by DOT's prima facie case.

The trial court filed an opinion in response.[3] The trial court explained the Initial Report is not conclusive because Reporting Doctor did not conclude Licensee should lose her operating privilege. According to the Seizure Report, Treating Physician concluded Licensee was safe to drive. DOT presented no further ...


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