Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Assumption of Risk Doctrine is Alive and Well in Pennsylvania

The following two recent cases confirm that the Assumption of Risk Doctrine remains alive and well in Pennsylvania. Copies of these cases may be secured from the Pennsylvania Law Weekly for a small fee by calling 1-800-276-7427 and providing them the below noted PICS Case Nos.

Cochrane v. Kopko, 2009 WL 1531646, PICS Case No. 09-0956 (Pa.Cmwlth. June 3, 2009)

Recognizing the continuing validity of the assumption of the risk doctrine in Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth Court affirmed a trial court's decision that a county did not breach any duty of care to a prison inmate injured in his cell. In so ruling, the appellate court noted that saying that the inmate assumed the risk of injury from a known and avoidable danger is simply another way of expressing the lack of any duty on the part of the possessor of land to protect an invitee against such dangers.

Concisely, in Cochrane, the court found that an inmate assumed the risk of his own injuries when he allegedly tried to slide open his malfunctioning cell door from his top bunk bed as opposed to getting down off the bed and too the floor first and attempting to open the door from that safe position. The inmate fell off his top bunk, hit the sink in the cell and struck the cell door, allegedly resulting in personal injuries to the inmate.

Apparently, the inmate had chosen not to come down off the bed because that process involved putting a foot down on a sink, sliding down and putting his other foot on the sink, then stepping down onto the toilet, and finally to the floor.

There's a joke in there somewhere, I just can't flush it out at the moment.

Vinikoor v. Pedal Pennsylvania, Inc., 2009 WL 1544267, PICS Case No. 09-0948 (Pa.Cmwlth. June 4, 2009)

In this separate case confirming that the assumption of risk doctrine remains a viable defense in Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth Court held that a participant in a bike tour assumed the risks inherent in biking on highways.

In Vinikoor, the defendant bike tour organizer had created a route and provided a map to the cyclists in which certain caution areas were noted. The map did not note a caution at the intersection where the front tire of the Plaintiff's bike caught a groove and caused the Plaintiff to crash and be injured.

The court found that the Plaintiff knew, or should have known that falling and encountering defective road conditions were part of the risks of cycling on roadways and, therefore, the Plaintiff was found to assume the risks associated with that activity.

The court also noted that the no-duty rule under the assumption of risk doctrine provides that a defendant owes no duty to warn, protect or insure against risks that are common, frequent, expected, or a known part of the activity at issue.

As such, the Commonwealth Court affirmed the entry of summary judgment in favor of the bike tour operator for these reasons as well as others.

For a more detailed discussion of the Assumption of Risk Doctrine I invite you to click on the following link to take you to my Profile and Documents to review an article of mine entitled "Dead or Alive? The assumption of risk doctrine in Pennsylvania" which appeared in the July 31, 2006 issue of the Pennsylvania Law Weekly and summarized the status of the doctrine in Pennsylvania:

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