Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mall Employee Can Be Business Invitee in Premises Liability Case

In a recent Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas decision by a visiting Senior Judge in the case of Young v. Prizm Asset Management Company, No. 2010-CV-8445 (C.P. Lacka. Co. Nov. 4, 2013, Saxton, J), the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Defendant landowner in a case in which the Plaintiff, a mall employee, allegedly sustained personal injuries as a result of a criminal assault in the parking garage of the Steamtown Mall in Scranton, Pennsylvania.   

After reviewing the records before it, the trial court had ultimately ruled that there was no evidence to establish a genuine question of material fact as to any alleged duty owed or breached by the Steamtown Mall.  As such, the summary judgment motion was granted at the trial court level.

UPDATE:  This Young decision was appealed and, under an Opinion and Order written by Judge David N. Wecht of the Pennsylvania Superior Court, the decision of the trial court judge granting summary judgment was reversed.

Judge David N. Wecht
Pennsylvania Superior Court
After a thorough analysis of the premises liability law pertaining to the duty owed by landowners to protect business invitees on the premises from the criminal acts of third parties, the Pennsylvania Superior Court in Young v. Prizm Asset Management Company,  2014 Pa. Super. 195, No. 2078 MDA 2013 (Pa. Super. Sept. 9, 2014 Lazarus, J., Wecht, J., Musmanno, J.)(Op. by Wecht, J.), held that the trial court correctly ruled that the Plaintiff, who was a mall employee, could be deemed to be a business invitee under the applicable law set forth in the Restatement (Second) of Torts Section 344.

However, the Superior Court went on to find that  genuine issues of material fact existed to be decided by the jury on whether or not the landowner defendant owed and breached a duty of care to the Plaintiff.  As such, the entry of summary judgment by the trial court in favor of the defendants was reversed and the case remanded.

Should you have a case involving a business invitee plaintiff allegedly injured as a result of criminal acts of a third party, the Young Opinion presents as the latest pronouncement by the Pennsylvania Superior Court of the applicable law and analysis of potential liability on the part of a defendant landowner.

Anyone wishing to review this Opinion may click HERE.

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