Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Beware of Bathroom Wall Mounted Hand Dryers

In the case of Crivaro v. BJ’s Wholesale Club, PICS Case No. 12-0213 (C.P. Monroe Co. Sept. 29, 2011 Wallitch Miller, J.), the Court granted summary judgment in favor of a Defendant on a business invitee/premises liability case based upon the placement of a wall mounted hand dryer in the store's bathroom.

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff was shopping at the Defendant store in Monroe County, Pennsylvania. While in the restroom drying his hands with a air blower that was mounted on the wall near the bathroom door, the Plaintiff was struck on the right shoulder and arm when another customer opened the bathroom door.

The Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against BJ Wholesale Club claiming that the injuries to his right shoulder and arm were a result of the allegedly negligent positioning of the hand dryer on the bathroom wall near the bathroom door.  The Plaintiff also claimed that the Defendant store was negligent for failing to warn customers that such an accident could happen.

Following discovery, the Defendant store filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing that the Plaintiff had failed to establish that the Defendant had breached any duty to the Plaintiff or that the Defendant’s actions or inactions caused any injuries to the Plaintiff.  The Motion was assigned to Judge Linda Wallach Miller for a decision.

While the court recognized that a possessor of land was liable for an injury to a business invitee like the Plaintiff if (1) the possessor of land knows or should have known of the allegedly dangerous condition, (2) that such condition involved an unreasonable risk of harm, (3) that the invitee would fail to protect himself, and (4) where the Defendant did not exercise reasonable care to protect the invitee against that danger, the Court also recognized the rule of law that “the mere existence of a harmful condition or happening of an accident does not raise the presumption of negligence.”

Judge Wallach Miller ruled that the Plaintiff did not establish that the placement of the wall hand dryer constituted an unreasonable risk of harm to business invitees. The court also found that the Plaintiff’s alleged injuries were not caused by the placement of the dryer, but rather by the door being opened by an other customer.

Given that the Court found that the Plaintiff had failed to establish the duty and causation elements for a negligence cause of action, the Court entered summary judgment in favor of the Defendants.

I do not have a copy of this Opinion. A copy of this Opinion can be secured from the Pennsylvania Instant Case Service run by the Pennsylvania Law Weekly.  A copy of the case can be secured by calling 1-800-276-7787 and paying a small fee.

If anyone can send me a copy of this case, I will share it here on Tort Talk.

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions,” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (February 7, 2012).

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