Monday, March 25, 2019

Summary Judgment Granted to Tenant Store Where Plaintiff Fell on Common Sidewalk

In the case Monti v. Pet Supplies Plus, LLC, No. 8681-CV-2015 (C.P. Monroe Co. Dec. 28, 2018 Harlacher Sibum, J.), the court granted summary judgment in favor of a retail store tenant in a slip and fall action where the Plaintiff fell in an area of a retail establishment comprised of common areas.

At the time of the Plaintiff's trip and fall, the Plaintiff was exiting the store when the wheel of her walker allegedly became lodged in a dip in the sidewalk.  The court found under the facts presented that sole liability for the exterior sidewalks on the leased property rested with the landlord.   

In so ruling, Judge Harlacher Sibum relied upon the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision in Leary v. Lawrence Sales Corp., in which that court laid down the principle of law that “[w]here the owner of real estate leases various parties thereof to several tenants, but retains possession and control of the common passage-ways aisles which are to be used by business invitees of the various tenants, the obligation of keeping the common aisles safe for the business invitees is imposed upon the landlord and not upon the tenants, in the absence of a contrary provision in the lease or leases.” 

In this Monti case before Judge Harlacher Sibum, the court noted that under the lease, the tenant and its customers were granted the privilege to use the common areas.  However, the lease provided that the landlord retained certain duties including maintaining those common areas of the leased property.  

Based upon this unambiguous language in the lease and the lack of any applicable lease provision to the contrary, and the application of the precedent in the Leary case, the court ruled that the landlord had sole liability for the exterior sidewalks on the leased property.  As such, the tenant was granted summary judgment on the premises liability issues presented.   

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

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Feb. 5, 2019). 

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