Monday, September 9, 2013

Judge Williamson of Monroe County Allows Punitive Damages Claim to Survive Pleadings Stage in Slip and Fall Case

In his recent decision in the case of Ulrich v. Bracey’s Mount Pocono, Inc., PICS Case No. 13-1524 (C.P. Monroe Co. May 28, 2013 Williamson, J.), Judge David J. Williamson of the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas addressed Preliminary Objections filed by Defendant in a slip and fall case.

Of note, the court denied the Defendant’s demurrer to the Plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages after concluded that a jury could find that the Defendants allegedly acted with reckless disregard for customer safety by failing to stop ice from forming next to a gas pump at the Defendant’s gas station. 
Judge David J. Williamson
Monroe County

According to a summary of the Opinion, the Plaintiff was allegedly injured when she slipped and fell on a patch of ice next to a gas pump that was position beneath an overhang at the mini-mart location.   The Plaintiffs alleged that the Defendants knew or should have known that defects in the overhang allowed ice to form next to the gas pump such that it created a serious and dangerous condition to business invitees.  

The Court refused to allow a demurrer to the punitive damages count based upon these allegations as, accepting the Plaintiff’s allegations as true as required by the applicable standard of review, a jury could conceivably find that the Defendants acted in reckless disregard for the safety of their customers if they allegedly knowingly allowed water to accumulate into the dangerous condition that allegedly existed at the time of the accident. 

Accordingly, foreshadowing that the issue could be readdressed after discovery, Judge Williamson found that it was premature to dismiss this particular claim at this early pleadings stage point of the litigation.

As such, the Court overruled the Defendant’s Preliminary Objections to the Plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages.  

Anyone desiring a copy of this case may contact the Pennsylvania Instant Case Service of the Pennsylvania Law Weekly by calling 1-800-276-7427 and providing the above noted PICS Case No. along with a payment of a small fee.  

Source:  “Digest of Recent Opinions," Pennsylvania Law Weekly (August 20, 2013).

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