I recently settled a case against SEPTA where my client was riding a motorized scooter which came into contact with a depression in the concrete adjacent to SEPTA trolley tracks.
The law says that SEPTA is responsible for such defects that are within 8 feet of the tracks. This depression was within the 8 feet, so I knew that SEPTA was responsible, and not the City or PennDOT. SEPTA refused to compensate my client, so a SEPTA lawsuit became necessary.
SEPTA lawsuits are not easily won and they fought this case hard. They took a very long deposition of my client, trying to get her to say she wasn’t paying attention, it was too dark out, she was riding her scooter too fast, etc. My client was an excellent witness and the SEPTA attorney could not get ANY testimony to help them win, whereas I deposed a SEPTA representative who gave me very useful information to help us win.
SEPTA’s representative testified that yes, the portion of the street that my client’s scooter tire came into contact with was indeed SEPTA’s property. He also testified that there was a construction project going on in that vicinity (Girard Avenue near the Philadelphia Zoo) for over 2 years, and that the entire area had many such depressions and potholes.
That was helpful, but still not enough to get SEPTA to make my client a reasonable offer. Then SEPTA’s lawyer filed something called a “Motion for Summary Judgment,” which is basically where they ask the judge to dismiss the case because we cannot prove that SEPTA knew about the defect that caused my client’s accident.
Required Proof in SEPTA Lawsuits
Under the law, not only does a SEPTA accident lawyer need to prove that SEPTA was the property owner, but also that they “knew or should have known” about the exact defect in question, in order to prevail in SEPTA lawsuits involving damaged property.
This had me worried, so I started scrambling to find information that could help defeat their motion. I dug-up a lot of information about the “Girard Avenue Restoration Project” that was helpful, because it showed that SEPTA was doing construction exactly where my client got hurt.
I also contacted the City of Philadelphia, and ordered “pothole records” for the location where the accident happened. This proved to be very helpful, as the documents I received showed that SEPTA had reported potholes to the City all over the area where my client’s accident happened.
Fortunately, the judge agreed with me that SEPTA “knew or should have known” about the defect in question, and denied SEPTA’s motion. Shortly after that, my client’s case was settled for $100,000.
This was a great result for a case that, had we gone to a jury, we could have lost. Because even though the judge agreed that the case should not be dismissed, it doesn’t mean that the jury MUST find in my client’s favor. And it was too big of a risk to not take such a substantial offer.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, and wish to avoid SEPTA lawsuits, it is VERY important to take photographs of the accident scene. And of course, call Philadelphia injury lawyer Jeffrey Harlan Penneys, Esquire at 1-800-465-8795 (1-800-injury-law) before giving any statements.