Court Dismisses Claims Against City Arising from Fatal Traffic Accident

FLB Law      Mar. 30, 2020

On March 24, 2020, the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas granted summary judgment in favor of the City of Allentown, and dismissed plaintiff’s claims alleging the existence of a dangerous intersection.

The case arose out of a tragic accident in 2015 in which the plaintiff’s car was struck by another vehicle driven by an individual who was both intoxicated and speeding.  The plaintiff was turning left at the time. The plaintiff was seriously injured and her daughter, a passenger in her car, was killed.  The driver of the other vehicle was charged with, and convicted of, multiple violations.

The plaintiff alleged that the intersection was unsafe and sought to hold the City responsible for the accident. The theory was that a different traffic signal could have been installed, which could have prevented the accident, even though the intersection had been recently redesigned under the direction of the Department of Transportation.

The Court rejected the assertion because, although the plaintiff’s expert offered an opinion that the alternative traffic light would have made the intersection safer, that opinion was not supported by a traffic study, or even reference to a traffic study. Under the law, the mere suggestion of another design is insufficient if it fails to take into account the impact of the alleged alternative on the traffic system as a whole. The Court was bound to dismiss plaintiff’s claims as unsupported as a matter of law.

Joseph S. D’Amico, Jr. led the defense and argued the motion for summary judgment. He was supported throughout the case by Maraleen D. Shields, with assistance from the Firm’s Litigation & Trial Practice, including associate Christopher J. Kalbfell and paralegal Heather Rivera.

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