Syeta Brewington, as parent and natural guardian for J.B., a minor, and Syeta Brewington in her own right v. City of Philadelphia, et al., 149 A.3d 901 (Pa. 2016)

Pennsylvania Supreme Court holds that a school can be held liable for injuries resulting from a child injured in gym class while at school, an exception to the governmental immunity given to schools.

Nine-year-old J.B., a minor, was injured during gym class at the Walter G. Smith Elementary School while engaged in a relay race whose boundaries were concrete walls at either end of the school’s gym. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that while local government agencies are generally immune from tort liability, Section 8542 of the Tort Claims Act waived immunity for specific categories of tort claims, including the real property exception, which an injured party falls into by showing the injury resulted from a dangerous condition that stemmed from the care, custody or control of real property, not personalty. In reversing the trial court’s order and remanding the matter to the trial court, and in overruling the prior holding of the Commonwealth Court in Rieger v. Altoona Area School District, 768 A.2d 912 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2001), the court concluded that where a complaint includes specific allegations that a plaintiff’s injuries resulted from negligence in the defendant’s care, custody, or control of real property, the real property exception to the broad rule of governmental immunity applies.

The practical implications of this holding appear to include that government entities seem to be at an increased risk of potential liability given that a plaintiff may overcome the broad rule of governmental immunity by pleading allegations sufficient to demonstrate that an injury resulted from a dangerous condition stemming from the care, custody or control of real property, not personalty. 


Case Law Alerts, 3rd Quarter, July 2019

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