Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Attention Shoppers

In the recent Decision of Parulski v. Dollar Tree Stores, Inc., Civil Action No. 3:11-CV-0614 (M.D. Pa. Aug. 13, 2012 Blewitt, M.J.), United States District Court of the Middle District of Pennsylvania Federal Magistrate Judge Blewitt issued an Opinion granting the Defendant store’s Motion for Summary Judgment in a trip and fall case.

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff alleged that the Defendant store would not allow the Plaintiff to carry her items that she had just purchased to her vehicle using a shopping cart due to security poles refraining shoppers from exiting the store with shopping carts. The Plaintiff also alleges that due to the Plaintiff’s having to carry her shopping bags and having to manually open the store’s non-automatic door, she was caused to suddenly fall to the ground and sustained serious injuries.

In ruling in favor of the Defendant, the Court noted, in part, that the undisputed evidence showed that the manner in which the Plaintiff attempted to carry the bags out the Defendant’s store through its door was an open and obvious danger to the Plaintiff. The Court went on to note that the carrying of too many packages in both hands and attempting to open a store’s non-automatic door by leaning into it with one’s shoulder was a danger that was known and obvious to the Plaintiff.

The Court also generally found that the Defendant did not create any dangerous condition by not allowing the shopping carts out the store or by failing to have automatic doors.

Judge Blewitt additionally found that the Plaintiff failed to prove that the Defendant had actual or constructive notice of any alleged dangerous condition. According to the Opinion, neither the Plaintiffs nor the Defendants submitted any evidence to indicate that a similar incident had occurred at this Dollar Tree Store in the past. The Court also reiterated that it was undisputed that the Defendant store’s door was not defective and the surface of the store’s floor was not defective.

Based upon the facts presented, including the Plaintiff’s deposition testimony, the court found that a reasonable person in the Defendant store’s position could not have prevented the Plaintiff’s injury as the decision to carry so many bags in both hands and the decision to lean on the store’s door with her shoulder to open it was all within the Plaintiff’s control.

The Court additionally reiterated that it found that no evidence was presented to prove that the Defendant store was in a position to prevent the Plaintiff’s injury as the store had no actual or constructive notice of any allegedly dangerous condition. The Court additionally found that the Plaintiff failed to establish that the Defendant’s alleged acts or omissions were the proximate cause of the Plaintiff’s damages. The Court concluded its Opinion by finding that the Defendant did not breach any duty owed to the Plaintiff. Accordingly, Judge Blewitt granted the Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment.

I send thanks to the prevailing defense attorney, Thomas Geroulo, Esquire of the Scranton office of Weber, Gallagher, Simpson, Stapleton, Firers & Newby, LLP for forwarding this Opinion to my attention.

Anyone wishing to review this decision may click this LINK.

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