Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Summary Judgment Denied in Premises Liability Case for Wheelchair Left in Hallway

In his recent decision in the case of Achille v. St. Luke’s Physicians Group, PICS Case No. 16-0479 (C.P. Monroe Co. Feb. 4, 2016 Williamson, J.), Judge David J. Williamson of the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas denied a Motion of Summary Judgment in a premises liability case after finding that genuine issues of material fact existed regarding whether an unoccupied wheelchair that the Plaintiff collided with outside her doctor’s office was an unreasonably dangerous condition and whether the Defendant had notice of the same.  

According to a summary of the Opinion, the Plaintiff went to a medical appointment at the Defendant’s office.   The Plaintiff, who had previously suffered a stroke, used a motorized wheelchair that she was able to control herself.    The Plaintiff was also essentially blind after her stroke. 

An occupied wheelchair was parked in the entrance way or hallway outside the doctor’s office.   As the Plaintiff’s aide held open the door to the office, Plaintiff’s wheelchair collided with the unoccupied wheelchair, allegedly resulting in injuries to the Plaintiff.  

The Plaintiff filed suit and the Defendants eventually filed a Motion for Summary Judgment.   The defense argued that the unoccupied wheelchair was not an unreasonably dangerous condition, but rather was an obvious and avoidable condition.  

The court denied the Motion for Summary Judgment as genuine issues of material fact existed and given that the Defendants were relying primarily on oral testimony.   The court noted that the parties disagreed over the interpretation of the Plaintiff’s testimony on the issues presented.   Judge Williamson also found that the Plaintiff’s testimony was subject to a credibility determination by the jury.   

The court also found that there was a question of whether it was reasonable for the Defendant, a provider of medical services for patients with disabilities to have anticipated that a large, unoccupied wheelchair within the path of the only handicapped entrance would be a danger to, or would be unnoticed by, those patients.  The judge found that this issue was for the jury to determine.  

Judge Williamson also stated that there are genuine issues of material fact on whether or not the Defendant had actual or constructive notice of the presence of the unoccupied wheelchair near the entrance way.   This was another issue that should be left for the jury’s consideration.  

 
A copy of this decision may be secured by contacting the Pennsylvania Instant Case Service of the Pennsylvania Law Weekly by calling 1-800-276-7427 and paying a small fee.  

 
Source:  “Digest of Recent Cases.”  Pennsylvania Law Weekly (April 26, 2016). 

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