Monday, May 24, 2010

Continuing Validity of Assumption of Risk Defense Noted by Pennsylvania Superior Court

The continuing validity of the assumption of risk doctrine in Pennsylvania was noted in the recent case of Montagazzi v. Crisci, 2010 WL 1732231 (Pa. Super. April 30, 2010 Bender, J.).

In Montagazzi, the Superior Court affirmed the order granting summary judgment in favor of all defendants on plaintiffs' claims that defendants were negligent in failing to warn or prevent the 15 year old minor plaintiff from lighting the fuse of an improvised explosive device that he and the other minor defendants created.

The trial court aptly found that the minor defendants owed the injured party no duty and, in the alternative, that the injured party had assumed the risk of injury as a matter of law.

Finally, the court did not accept plaintiffs' argument that the doctrine of voluntary assumption of risk should be abolished. The Superior Court noted that it was without authority to abolish the doctrine and left that decision for the Supreme Court on another day.

In any event, the Superior Court went on to note that it found no reason to invalidate the trial court's application of the doctrine at the summary judgment stage under the current state of Pennsylvania law.

The appellate court noted that the injured minor conceived and executed a design for an improvised explosive, procured the wick that served as a fuse, allowed it to be lit and held it in his hand on two successive occasions.

As such, the Superior Court noted that the injured party proceeded in the face of a known danger of explosion and assumed the risk that the device would explode, i.e., the injured party voluntarily and knowingly exposed himself to the very danger the device was supposed to do. The Court therefore found that the injured party relieved those who may otherwise have had a duty to warn him, and implicitly agreed to take care of himself.

The Opinion may be viewed by clicking on this link:

Source: Pennsylvania Law Weekly Case Digests

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