Monday, July 29, 2013

Assumption of Risk Doctrine Applied in Philadelphia County Slip and Fall Case

In his recent decision in the case of Burley v. University City Science Center, PICS Case No.  13-1424 (C.P. Phila. June 4, 2013 Tereshko, J.), Judge Allen L. Tereshko issued an Opinion in which he recommended to the Superior Court that they affirm his decision that the Plaintiff assumed the risk of an obvious danger when she walked across an icy patch in a parking garage where the evidence revealed that the Plaintiff had prior knowledge of the presence of that condition.  

This case therefore offers support for an argument that the assumption of risk doctrine remains valid in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

It appears that this issue came to the court by way of a Motion for Summary Judgment.  

The Plaintiff was employed as a security guard at the parking garage.   The record before the court revealed that, prior to the beginning of her shift, the Plaintiff was advised by a supervisor that the parking garage and accumulation of ice on the surface.   The record also revealed that, in her deposition, the Plaintiff admitted that she saw the ice in the parking garage, but continued walking her rounds when she slipped while walking directly over the ice covered area.  

Judge Tereshko reasoned that the fact that the Plaintiff knew of the dangerous condition in the parking garage was dispositive on the issue of liability because the Plaintiff assumed the risk when she encountered the icy condition.  The dangerous condition was noted to be apparent and the risk was found to be inherently obvious.  

According to the summary of the Opinion, Judge Tereshko also noted in his Opinion that common knowledge dictates that ice is slippery and to walk over an icy patch is to risk falling and suffering any injuries.  

The court additionally noted that the Plaintiff had an opportunity to take an alternate route or to discontinue her patrol and avoid the danger.

Judge Tereshko further noted in his Opinion that the Plaintiff not only aware of the condition, but allegedly failed to follow company procedure by alerting a supervisor or an account manager about the hazard.

In his Opinion, Judge Tereshko also concluded that the Plaintiff was an independent contractor and that the law imposed no duty upon land owners to warn an independent contractor about obvious dangers no the land.  

Anyone wishing to secure a copy of this Opinion may contact the Instant Case Service of the Pennsylvania Law Weekly at 1-800-276-7427 and pay a small fee.

Source:  "Case Digests" Pennsylvania Law Weekly (7/23/13)


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