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Spy Cams Stop Litigation (The Jerk and Jolt Doctrine)

Spy Cams Stop Litigation (The Jerk and Jolt Doctrine)

In the last month I have been approached by three people who wanted to sue the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) because of incidents that occurred involving vehicles operated by SEPTA.  SEPTA now has video cameras on its buses, trolleys and trains.  This is public money well spent, as shown below.  Pursuant to the Right to Know Law, I requested the videos of each incident and quickly determined that only one of these cases was viable.  Two of them obviously were not.  I was able to close those files, after explaining to the clients why SEPTA was not to blame for their injuries.  This is a good result for SEPTA, and for me too.  I would certainly prefer not to spend years of litigation on non-meritorious claims.

Two of these cases involve Pennsylvania’s jerk and jolt doctrine. Under this law, a bus passenger must establish that a jerk or jolt was so extraordinary as to be beyond a passenger’s reasonable anticipation, or that the jerk or jolt had an unusually disturbing effect on other passengers.  Before we look at those two cases, I want to address the most interesting of these three cases.

A teenage girl came into my office with her mother claiming that she was injured when attempting to board a SEPTA trolley with her bike.  The video confirmed that the trolley operator had refused her entry and closed the door sooner than he should have.  She had told me that her leg got caught in the bike’s wheel before she dropped it onto the tracks.  I noticed that her leg appeared uninjured.  The video showed that the girl stepped back after the operator closed the door and then appeared to drop the bike intentionally.  She then walked away, apparently uninjured.  I called her mom back into the office, showed her the video, and we agreed that her daughter’s case was not meritorious.  It would have been interesting if there was a spy cam in the home when mom got home and confronted the daughter.

In the other two cases, the videos showed individuals falling on buses.  One case was meritorious and one was not.  In one case, the client fell even though the bus did not perceptibly jerk or jolt. Therefore, I could not pursue her case.  In the other case, the video showed an elderly woman getting on a bus with a walker.  The driver saw her, waited until a moment before she sat down, and then started moving.  Had he waiting another half second, all would have been well.  His impatience caused a vulnerable passenger to fall and become badly injured.  Even though there was nothing unusual about the movement of the bus, the driver had the duty to wait until this woman was seated.  That case I am going to pursue.

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