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Municipality held not liable when student killed at allegedly dangerous bus stop

A federal judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania decided that a municipality will not be held liable for the death of a student who was killed by a vehicle as he crossed a road to reach his bus stop.  In the case of Estate of Viola v. Township of Bensalem, a student was killed when he attempted to cross a busy intersection to wait for his school bus.  At the time of the accident the intersection's pedestrian crossing signal button was broken.  Unfortunately, the intersection was not manned with a crossing guard at the hour of the death.

In dismissing the case the judge said that the plaintiff failed to prove that the municipal defendants actively created a dangerous condition by the positioning of the bus stop and failing to fix the broken pedestrian crossing signal.  Although the plaintiff's alleged that the bus stop was in a dangerous location they failed to provide evidence that the municipal defendants were aware of previous accidents at the bus stop due to its location.  They also failed to prove that the defendants were aware that the push button pedestrian signal was broken prior to the accident.  

In order to survive the motion to dismiss the plaintiff had to prove that the state created a danger where the plaintiff was a foreseeable victim, that the state's actions shocked the conscience, and that the state/municipality used its authority in a way to put the plaintiff at more of risk than if it did nothing at all.  The judge ultimately found that the plaintiff's failed to meet this burden and dismissed the case.  The judge found that the defendant's inaction, its failure to discover the broken signal or the alleged failure to post a crossing guard for longer periods of time did not constitute affirmative acts which would impose liability.  

When an accident such as this occurs we often look for someone to hold accountable.  When an accident occurs on a public street the defendants in such a lawsuit are often government entities such as municipalities in addition to the driver of the accident vehicle.  When government entities are defendants the legal standard the plaintiff needs to meet is often a heightened one.  If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident you should contact an experience attorney to discuss the case and if a legal recovery is within reach.

Source:  "Federal Claim Tossed in Suit Over Student's Death", by P.J. D'Annunzio, The Legal Intelligencer, March 13, 2015 

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