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Bost-Pearson v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

June 5, 2015

Robin Bost-Pearson, Appellant
v.
Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority

Submitted May 4, 2015

Appealed from No. May Term, 2013, No. 2776. Common Pleas Court of the County of Philadelphia. Shreeves-Johns, J.

Marc I. Simon, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Kristin S. Mutzig, Philadelphia, for appellee.

BEFORE: HONORABLE BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge, HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, Judge, HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge.

Page 473

OPINION

BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, J.

Robin Bost-Pearson appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County that granted the motion for summary judgment of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) based on her failure to satisfy the " jerk and jolt" doctrine, which provides as follows:

[T]estimony indicating that a moving trolley car jerked suddenly or violently is not sufficient, of itself, to establish negligence in its operation. There must be a showing of additional facts and circumstances from which it clearly appears that the movement of the car was so unusual and extraordinary as to be beyond a passenger's reasonable anticipation, and nothing short of evidence that the allegedly unusual movement had an extraordinarily disturbing effect upon other passengers, or evidence of an accident, the manner of the occurrence of which or the effect of which upon the injured person inherently establishes the unusual character of the jolt or jerk, will suffice.

Connolly v. Phila. Transp. Co., 420 Pa. 280, 216 A.2d 60, 64 (Pa. 1966) [quoting Staller v. Phila. Rapid Transit Co., 339 Pa. 100, 14 A.2d 289, 291 (Pa. 1940)]. We affirm.

In February 2013, Bost-Pearson and her then two-year-old granddaughter boarded a SEPTA bus at the intersection of 57th Street and Lebanon Avenue and found front-facing seats approximately six rows behind the driver. Bost-Pearson occupied the aisle seat and her granddaughter sat next to her by the window. Bost-Pearson alleged that, " [s]uddenly and without warning, the . . . SEPTA bus driver, negligently, carelessly operated its motor vehicle in such a manner so as to suddenly jerk and jolt, quickly accelerating, causing [her] to fall, and to be thrown about the bus . . . ." July 3, 2013 Complaint, ¶ 4; Reproduced Record (R.R.) at 12a. She averred that she suffered serious injuries as a result.

At her deposition, Bost-Pearson testified that she was thrown out of her seat and suffered a fall near the intersection of 56th and Vine Streets when, in order to avoid hitting prospective passengers waiting at the edge of the bus stop, the driver first turned quickly to the left and then quickly to the right, causing her to fall out of her seat and hit the floor with the right side of her body. Bost-Pearson's December 18, 2013 Deposition at 33; R.R. at 40a. She testified that the driver " went past the green light, but he just was too close to the people. So instead of hitting them, he made that quick left, but he was accelerating the gas and he went to the right and

Page 474

that's when I got thrown out of my seat, 300 pounds hitting the ground." Id. at 38; R.R. at 41a. Bost-Pearson testified that she did not recall whether any other passengers were affected, that she did not hear any commotion or comments from them and that her ...


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