Tuesday, September 4, 2018

One Possessor of Land Owes No Duty to Another Possessor of the Same Land Under Premises Liability Principles


In the case of Cholewka v. Gelso, 2018 Pa.Super. 216 (Pa. Super. July 27, 2018 Ott, J., Stabile, J., Musmanno, J.) (Op. by Ott, J.), the court affirmed a trial court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of a Defendant in a slip and fall case after finding that one possessor of land owes no duty of care to another possessor of land on the same premises. 

By way of background, the Plaintiffs and the Defendants at issue leased a residential property together from the Defendant-owner of the premises.  

More specifically, the leased property was rented by the Dawn and Ronald Cholewka, as well as their daughter, Heather, and the daughter’s boyfriend.  All four (4) tenants signed the Lease and had agreed to rent the property as is and agreed to make all necessary repairs.  

At some point during the course of the Lease, the boyfriend-tenant installed a gravel parking pad next to an existing asphalt driveway so that he would have a place to park his work truck.

One night, Dawn Cholewka was walking around the premises and tripped in the area of the driveway and the parking pad.   

The Plaintiff sued the Defendant landlords and later joined the Defendant boyfriend-tenant and his landscaping company in as Additional Defendants.  

The boyfriend-tenant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment and the trial court granted that motion after finding that the boyfriend-tenant owed no duty of care to the Plaintiff because all of the parties were co-possessors of the same land.  

 The Superior Court affirmed noting that its “research has uncovered no decision in which one possessor of land owed a duty of care to another possessor of land under premises liability principles.”  

The court otherwise also affirmed the summary judgment entered in favor of the boyfriend-tenant under general negligence principles given that the Plaintiff admitted that she was aware of the “lip” between the driveway and the gravel parking pad before she fell. The court agreed that no reasonable minds could differ as to the conclusion that the boyfriend tenant’s construction of the parking pad did not create an unreasonable risk of harm to others.

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

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinion” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Aug. 14, 2018).

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