Who Has the Duty to Maintain a Public Sidewalk?
Under Pennsylvania’s shelter-in-place order, issued by Governor Tom Wolf on March 23, residents are required to stay at home except as necessary to provide, support, or obtain access to essential services. The order does, however, allow Pennsylvanians to engage in “outdoor activities,” provided there are no gatherings and social distancing requirements are honored. To battle cabin fever, many residents are getting out for walks on neighborhood sidewalks.
With this increase in walkers, there’s likely to also be an increase in slip-and-falls on damaged, broken, or defective sidewalk panels. In Pennsylvania, as in other states, property owners have a duty to monitor and maintain premises so as to minimize the risk of injury to anyone legally visiting the property. But who has the duty to monitor and maintain a public sidewalk? Is it the adjoining property owner or the municipality?
Under Pennsylvania law, a local governmental body may be responsible for injuries sustained in a slip-and-fall on a public sidewalk, but that liability is only secondary. Private homeowners and businesses have a duty to keep all sidewalks that abut their property in reasonably safe condition. An injured person can recover damages from a municipality only if the homeowner or business whose property abuts the sidewalk is unable to pay for the losses sustained. In addition, the municipality has liability only if the injured person can prove that the agency responsible for maintaining the sidewalk had notice of the dangerous condition and failed to take timely measures to repair the danger or provide reasonable notice to pedestrians.
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At Barnard, Mezzanotte, Pinnie, Seelaus & Kraft LLP, we have protected the rights of personal injury victims in Pennsylvania since 1980. We offer a free initial consultation. To schedule an appointment, call us at 610-565-4055 or 302-594-4535 or contact us online.
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