Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Trivial Defect Case out of Philadelphia County

On December 13, 2010, Judge Levin of the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas issued an Opinion supporting entry of a compulsory non-suit in favor of a property owner after ruling that a defect in the sidewalk that was only 5/8 of an inch was a trivial defect as a matter of law in the case of Alston v. Commonwealth, PICS Case No. 11-0061 (Phila. Co., Dec. 13, 2010, Levin, J.).

In this case, the injured party had previously secured a settlement from the City of Philadelphia and PennDOT due to her injuries from a fall on a city street. The City of Philadelphia proceeded to trial against the property owner to recover the money the City paid in settlement on the grounds that the property owner was secondarily liable to the Plaintiff.

Judge Levin pointed to the fact that the City's own liability expert conceded at trial that there were thousands of city sidewalks with elevation levels of less than one inch. The court also noted that there were numerous appellate decisions finding deviations greater in size than the one at issue in this matter did not provide any basis for liability against a property owner.

The court further stated that "[i]t is simply unreasonable and utterly unrealistic to hold municipalities and property owners to a standard of care of maintaining pavement in pristine condition."

Rather, court found that the standard is reasonable care depending upon the surrounding the circumstances. Applying this standard, the court asserted that it properly entered a compulsory non-suit in favor of the property owner.

Anyone desiring a copy of this case (for a small fee) may contact the Pennsylvania Law Weekly's Instant Case Service at 1-800-276-7427 and provide the above-referenced PICS Case Number.

Source: "Digest of Recent Opinions" in January 18, 2011 Pennsylvania Law Weekly.

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