Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Summary Judgment Granted in Monroe County Trip and Fall Case

In the Monroe County decision by Judge David Williamson in the case of Martz v. JKS Mobile Home Park, PICS Case No. 13-0091 (C.P. Monroe Co. Dec. 12, 2012 Williamson, J.), the court entered summary judgment in favor of a Defendant in a trip and fall case.  
By way of background, the Plaintiff alleged personal injuries after having tripped and fallen in her own yard on a piece of metal protruding out of the ground.   The Plaintiff filed a Complaint alleging that the Defendant was liable because it breached its duty to her in failing to keep the rear area of her leased lot free and clear of all dangerous conditions.  
The Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment asserting that there is no question of any material fact as to liability because the Plaintiff had admitted at her deposition that she was in possession of the leased premises at the time of her injury and that the Defendant had no notice of the alleged defective condition.  
The Plaintiff attempted to raise genuine issue of material fact as to possession and control of the area in which she fell.  
The court granted summary judgment after determining, from a review of the Plaintiff’s own deposition testimony, that she had maintained the area for almost three (3) years and had even placed a fence around it.   Based upon this testimony, the court determined that the area was within her maintenance and control and that the Defendant had no duty to make the area safe.  
The court also relied upon the Plaintiff’s deposition with respect to her admission that even she did not know how long the object that caused her to trip and fall was in her backyard.  
The Plaintiff had also only witnessed the Defendant’s employees leave logs in or near her yard, which had nothing to do with her fall.  No other involvement by the Defendant with the Plaintiff's yard was indicated.   As such, the court determined that the Plaintiff had failed to show any breach of any duty by the Defendant.  
Significantly, the court also rejected the Plaintiff’s argument that a determination on summary judgment could not be made on deposition testimony alone.  The court cited applicable law confirming that, since the Defendant had supported its motion by using the deposition testimony of an opposing party and the admissions contained therein, summary judgment could be granted on that basis under Pennsylvania.  
Anyone desiring a copy of this decision may contact the Pennsylvania Law Weekly’s Pennsylvania Instant Case Service at 1-800-276-7427 and providing the above-referenced PICS Case Number and paying a small fee.
Source:  “Digest of Recent Opinions,” Pennsylvania Law Weekly, 30 PLW 103 (Jan. 29, 2013).  

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