Monday, August 13, 2018

Issues of Fact Preclude Summary Judgment in Fall Down Steps; But Claims for Attorneys Fees Dismissed

In his recent decision in the decision of Gordner v. McIntosh, No. 2017-CV-6468 (C.P. Lacka. Co. July 9, 2018 Nealon, J.), Judge Terrence R. Nealon of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas denied Defendant owners’ Preliminary Objections to the Plaintiff’s Complaint, including a demurrer to the Plaintiff’s negligence cause of action stated in this slip and fall case. 

In addressing the demurrer to the Complaint, the court provided a detailed description of the current status of Pennsylvania law pertaining to slip and fall matters.   In reviewing that law, the court noted that, although there are Pennsylvania cases that stand for the proposition that mere evidence of a highly polished floor, standing alone, is sufficient to sustain a negligence claim, other cases confirm that the manner in which the polish or wax was applied and maintained could give rise to a cause of action for negligence in slip and fall matters.  

The court found that the Plaintiff stated a valid cause of action when the Plaintiff alleged that the landowners’ high gloss treatment of their hardwood stairs amounted to a negligent creation and maintenance of a hazardous condition. The Plaintiff had additionally alleged that the Defendants had failed to provide adequate lighting for the slippery stairs and/or to warn all invitees of the hazardous condition of the stairs.  

The Plaintiffs additionally asserted in the Complaint that one owner stated after the fall that “[w]e usually tell people these stairs are slippery.”  

The court found that, accepting the Plaintiff’s allegations as true as required by the standard of review for a demurrer, the Plaintiff’s Complaint stated a cognizable negligence claim.  

The court in this matter otherwise sustained the landowner Defendants’ demurrer to the Plaintiffs’ claim for attorney’s fees given that the Complaint failed to reference any statutory, contractual, or decisional basis for the claim for counsel fees.   As such, the court found that any claim for counsel fees in this tort action is insufficient as a matter of law.  Accordingly, the demurrer to the claim for counsel fees was sustained.

The court also struck the Plaintiff’s specific claims for dollar amounts for eight (8) separate categories of damages as being improper.   Rather, the court noted that a prayer for relief should only indicate whether or not the Plaintiff is demanding compensatory damages in excess of or below the compulsory arbitration limit in the county.  

In the end, the court sustained some of the Defendants’ Preliminary Objections and overruled others.  

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision by Judge Nealon may click this LINK.

If you need assistance in resolving your premises liability case by way of a Mediation, please do not hesitate to contact me should I be able to help you bring your case to a close.  Resume and fee schedule available on request.  Thanks.

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