Attorney Sbrolla Successfully Defends County Jail

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Philip Sbrolla successfully defended a county jail in a wrongful death and civil rights case in state and federal courts. The Decedent was arrested on an outstanding bench warrant. While incarcerated he received medical care to assist in the detoxification process. The Decedent’s Estate alleged that the Decedent was suffering side effects from the detoxification medication that caused him to stumble, lose his footing and fall over a balcony railing to his ultimate death on the floor below. The Estate alleged that the county did not have adequate policies and procedures in place to address his serious medical condition. The county jail maintained that the Decedent intentionally jumped and that there was no evidence that the Decedent was suffering side effects from the medical treatment. The United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania granted the County’s Motion for Summary Judgment on the Plaintiff’s civil rights claims but decline to exercise jurisdiction over the state law claim. The Estate filed an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which affirmed the dismissal of the civil rights claims.


The Estate then transferred the state law claim to the Court of Common Pleas of Lawrence County. The County filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on the remaining state law claim based upon the immunity provided under the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act. The Estate argued that the real estate exception to the Tort Claims Act applied as the railing on the balcony of the second floor was not in conformance with code, and therefore, contributed to the Decedent falling to his death. The County argued that for the real estate exception to apply, the plaintiff is required to establish that the real estate caused the injury and not merely facilitated the injury. The Court adopted the County’s argument and granted summary judgment dismissing all remaining claims.

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