Transfer of SEPTA wrongful death claim sought from state to federal court

By Jon Campisi | Feb 29, 2012

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority has filed a removal notice with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania seeking to have a wrongful death suit against it transferred from state to federal court.

Personal injury lawyers Michael F. Barrett and Robert N. Braker, of the Philadelphia firm Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett & Bendesky, had filed a wrongful death claim against SEPTA at Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Court last month on behalf of a Camden, N.J. woman who was suing in her capacity of estate administrator for the deceased Leonard Sedden.

Sedden died while aboard a SEPTA bus on April 11, 2010, a death that the decedent’s family blames on the public transportation agency.

According to the complaint, Sedden, while aboard a bus traveling from the 69th Street Terminal in Upper Darby, Pa. to the Frankford Transportation Center in Philadelphia, was discovered by a bus driver to be lying in his own urine, covered in drool and largely unresponsive.

The lawsuit claims that when the driver phoned dispatch to see how to handle the situation, the dispatcher told the bus operator to continue with his route so as to not delay the bus schedule.

When the bus reached 15th and Market Streets in Philadelphia, the suit claims, a SEPTA supervisor boarded the vehicle, observed that Sedden was still breathing, and directed the driver to continue the normally scheduled route without stopping for medical assistance for Sedden.

By the time the bus reached the Frankford Transportation Center at Bridge Street and Frankford Avenue at about 5:30 that morning, an hour-and-a-half after Sedden boarded the bus, Sedden was pronounced dead by SEPTA police, according to the complaint.

The plaintiff, Lisa Reynolds, who is suing in her capacity as administrator of Sedden’s estate, claims in her lawsuit that SEPTA was negligent when it failed to take the necessary steps to prevent Sedden’s death.

(The suit does not detail the relationship between the plaintiff and Sedden).

Reynolds claims that SEPTA failed to properly recognize an emergency, failed to properly respond to an emergency, failed to provide Sedden with prompt and appropriate medical assistance, and failed to have proper policies and measures in place for recognizing medical emergencies.

The lawsuit contains wrongful death, negligence, and survival action counts. It also contains allegations of civil rights allegations, claiming that Sedden’s 14th Amendment rights were violated.

On Feb. 27, attorneys for SEPTA filed the notice of removal based on the fact that the complaint contains federal civil rights violations, a question which falls under the jurisdiction of federal court.

The removal notice, which seeks to transfer the case from Common Pleas Court to federal court in Philadelphia, was filed by attorneys Thomas P. Wagner and Robert W. Stanko, of the Philadelphia firm Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin.


The Common Pleas Court case number is 120105101. The federal case number is 2:12-cv-01008-PBT. 

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