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Stop Signs are Self-Explanatory, Unless They Disappear (PA)

September 20, 2018

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On September 7, 2018, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania reversed an entry of summary judgment in favor of Jeff and Jolie Hine in <a href="http://blog.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Estate-of-Jeff-S.-Hine-v.-Pennsy-Supply-Inc.pdf">Estate of Jeff S. Hine v. Pennsy Supply Inc</a>.  The case stems from an automobile accident involving Mr. Hine and Michelle Dulay, in which Dulay drove her vehicle through the intersection of Parkview Circle and North Empire Court in Wilkes-Barre, PA and crashed into Mr. Hine’s car.  Following the accident, the Hine's filed suit against Dulay and Pennsy Supply Inc. (“Pennsy”) who the Hines claimed had removed a stop sign at the intersection.

Prior to trial, the Hines and Dulay came to an out-of-court settlement and all claims against Dulay were withdrawn.  Subsequently, Pennsy filed a motion for summary judgment claiming that the record was devoid of evidence that it had removed the stop sign which would have potentially prevented Dulay from entering the intersection without stopping.  On June 5, 2017, the trial court granted Pennsy’s motion for summary judgment as it claimed the record was devoid of evidence that Pennsy had removed the stop sign.

The Hines then filed this appeal arguing that there is a genuine issue of material fact that Pennsy was negligent when it removed and then failed to replace the stop sign at the intersection.  First, the court noted that Pennsy was the prime contract for the construction work going on around the intersection and therefore if a stop sign was removed it would be responsible.  Furthermore, part of the project involved installing an ADA compliant ramp at the very spot where the stop sign was located.  This fact was backed up by testimony from Mr. Hine as well as Wilkes-Barre Police Sergeant Thomas Harding.  Finally, Attilio “Butch” Fratti, the Director of Operations for the City of Wilkes-Barre had reviewed a construction “punch list” which was prepared by PennDOT three months after the accident indicated that Pennsy had removed the stop sign.  Fratti indicated that Pennsy had never contacted the City to request removal of the stop sign per City requirements.

The Court noted that regardless of whether a stop sign existed at the intersection, Dulay still had a legal duty to yield the right-of-way to Mr. Hine under Pennsylvania law.  However, the Court felt that the record indicated that Dulay was not aware of her legal obligation to yield the right-of-way to Mr. Hine.  The stop sign at the intersection existed to ensure that drivers, who might not know all Pennsylvania traffic rules, stop at intersections and prevent accidents.  As such, the Court reversed the trial court’s entry of summary judgment.  Thanks ti Garrett Gittler for his contribution to this post.  Please contact Brian Gibbons by <a href="mailto:bgibbons@wcmlaw.com">email</a> or on Twitter @bgibbons35 with any questions.

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