Property Damage • Municipal Immunity

Deraffele v. City of Williamsport, PICS Case No. 14-0119 (C.P. Lycoming Jan. 23, 2014) Anderson, J. (4 pages).

Where a plaintiff alleged that a sewer system was antiquated and inadequate, it did not rise to the level to satisfy the real property and streets exceptions to a municipality’s statutory immunity. Sustained.

Defendant City of Williamsport filed preliminary objections to plaintiff John Deraffele’s property damage claims that plaintiff argued arose from the defendant’s antiquated and inadequate storm drainage systems that were overwhelmed by a flash flood.

Defendant argued that it was immune pursuant to the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act; plaintiff countered that the real property and the streets exceptions provided for liability.

The court found that the real property exception did not apply, as the statute specifically excluded sewer and water systems. The court also found that the streets exception did not apply, as plaintiff did not allege a dangerous condition of the streets, as the statutory exception requires, but instead simply the inadequacy of city drainage systems.

Furthermore, the court noted that appellate courts have held that municipalities may be held liable where a drainage system was negligently constructed or maintain, but not where such a system is merely inadequate, as it speaks to a municipality’s discretionary power to plan and construct drainage systems, for which a municipality cannot be held liable.

Accordingly, because the plaintiff sought to impose liability for a drainage system that was merely inadequate, his claim was barred by the defendant’s immunity.