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

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

July 19, 2018

Joseph Bramer, Appellant
v.
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation, Bureau of Driver Licensing Joseph Bramer
v.
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation, Bureau of Driver Licensing, Appellant

          Submitted: June 8, 2018

          BEFORE: HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge, HONORABLE CHRISTINE FIZZANO CANNON, Judge, HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, Senior Judge.

          OPINION

          PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, JUDGE

         Joseph Bramer (Bramer) appeals, pro se, from the September 22, 2017 order of the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County (trial court), which dismissed Bramer's statutory appeal of the recall of his operating privilege imposed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation, Bureau of Driver Licensing (PennDOT), pursuant to section 1519(c) of the Vehicle Code, 75 Pa.C.S. §1519(c). PennDOT cross-appeals a portion of the same order which directs it to provide Bramer with a driving test in accordance with 67 Pa. Code §83.5(c).[1]

         Facts and Procedural History

         In early March 2017, Bramer received a letter dated March 3, 2017, from PennDOT, notifying him of the recall of his driving privilege because PennDOT received information indicating that Bramer suffered from a neurological condition that prevented him from safely operating a motor vehicle. (Supplemental Reproduced Record (S.R.R.) at 2b-3b.)[2] The letter informed Bramer that, effective March 10, 2017, he could no longer drive until he successfully demonstrates that he could satisfy PennDOT's minimum medical standards.

         On March 13, 2017, Bramer appealed to the trial court. (Original Record (O.R.) at Item No. 1.) The trial court held a hearing, de novo, on September 22, 2017. At the hearing, PennDOT presented as evidence a DL-13 Initial Reporting Form (Form) wherein Bramer's healthcare provider, Jessica L. Kappel, PA-C, who specializes in neurology, diagnosed Bramer as suffering from a neurological disorder. (S.R.R. at 4b.) In the Form, Kappel represented that Bramer had been treated by her practice since February 10, 2012. Id. The report was admitted into the record with no objection. (Notes of Testimony (N.T.), 9/22/17, at 6.) Counsel for Bramer admitted that she had no reports or medical evidence to contradict Kappel's report. (Id. at 6, 8.) Bramer testified that he had been driving for about 55 years; that he neither had a car accident nor received a traffic violation in the last 20 to 25 years; and that he believed he was "definitely" able to operate a moving vehicle. (Id. at 7-8.)

         Upon conclusion of the hearing, the trial court stated that, because Bramer did not produce any medical evidence to contradict Kappel's report, it had "no alternative but to uphold the condition of [his] license at this point," explaining that "if, in the future, there would be some change of competence and that would be supported by medical evidence, it could be presented at that time." (Id. at 8.) At that time, Bramer's counsel argued that PennDOT failed to demonstrate his incompetency and requested that, pursuant to 67 Pa. Code §83.5(c), the trial court direct PennDOT to allow him to take a driving examination to determine whether he was, in fact, competent to operate a motor vehicle. (Id. at 9.)

         On September 22, 2017, the trial court issued an order dismissing Bramer's appeal. (O.R. at Item No. 5.) However, the order included a written directive for PennDOT to provide Bramer with a driving examination under 67 Pa. Code §83.5(c). Id. Both Bramer and PennDOT filed appeals with the trial court. (O.R. at Item Nos. 6 and 9.)

         Discussion and Analysis

         On appeal, [3] Bramer argues that the trial court erred in dismissing his appeal where (1) the only evidence submitted by PennDOT during the medical recall hearing was an initial reporting form submitted by Bramer's neurologist; and (2) Bramer did not have an opportunity to complete a court-ordered driving examination.

         First, we must address Bramer's argument that PennDOT did not meet its burden of proof to establish that he was not qualified to drive. Bramer contends that PennDOT failed to produce any medical information to support Kappel's neurological report. In response, PennDOT contends that the medical report alone satisfied its burden to establish a prima facie case. Section 1519(c) of the Vehicle Code provides:

[PennDOT] shall recall the operating privilege of any person whose incompetency has been established under the provisions of this chapter. The recall shall be for an indefinite period until satisfactory evidence is presented to [PennDOT] in accordance with regulations to establish that such person is competent to drive a motor vehicle. [PennDOT] shall suspend the operating privilege of any person who refuses or fails to comply with the requirements of this section until that person does comply and that person's competency to drive is established. Any person aggrieved by recall or suspension of the operating privilege may appeal in the manner provided in section 1550. The judicial review shall be ...

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