Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Judge Burke of Luzerne County Grants Summary Judgment in Premises Liability Case

Hon. Thomas F. Burke, Jr.
Luzerne County President Judge
In his recent Opinion in the case of Purdy v. Downs Racing, L.P. d/b/a Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, No. 15369-C of 2010 (C.P. Luz. Co. Dec. 4, 2012 Burke, P.J.), President Judge Thomas F. Burke, Jr. of the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas granted summary judgment in favor of the Defendant in a premises liability case arising out of an alleged slip and fall.  

In this matter, the Plaintiff alleged that she slipped and fell while located on the premises owned and maintained by the Mohegan Sun Casino.  The Plaintiff allegedly slipped and fell on a puddle of clear liquid approximately 12 inches in size.  

After discovery, the defense filed a Motion for Summary Judgment asserting that the Plaintiff had failed to meet her burden of proof on the issues presented.   More specifically, there was allegedly no evidence to establish how the puddle was created or how long it had existed prior to the Plaintiff’s fall.  As such, the defense asserted that there was no evidence of any actual or constructive notice on the part of the Defendant of any allegedly dangerous condition.   The court agreed. 

In his Opinion, Judge Burke confirmed that there was no evidence presented by the Plaintiff as to how long the puddle existed prior to the incident.  

The court also stated that the Plaintiff’s allegation that the puddle consisted of residual cleaning solution that had leaked from a carpet cleaning machine stored in a housekeeping closet near where she fell was nothing more than speculation.  The court noted that, while the liquid the Plaintiff allegedly fell on was clear, evidence was presented that the solution that the machine used was tinted.   There was also no evidence of any history of leaks with respect to the brand new machine.

Judge Burke held that, without any evidence that the equipment stored in the closet caused the puddle in question, the Plaintiff’s allegations were without support in the records and the Plaintiff was therefore unable to establish a breach of a legal duty.  

Judge Burke noted that the record before the court “at best demonstrated the mere existence of a harmful condition in a Defendant’s premises and the mere happening of an accident due to such a condition, which does not evidence a breach of the duty of the Defendant’s duty of care or raises a presumption of negligence.”   Accordingly, summary judgment was entered in favor of the Defendant.

Anyone wishing to review Judge Burke's decision in the Purdy case may contact me at dancummins@comcast.net.

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