Monday, November 11, 2019

Trivial Defect Doctrine Serves to Defeat Monroe County Trip and Fall Case


In the case of McKenzie v. Wal-Mart, No. 1540-CV-2018 (C.P. Monroe Co. Oct. 18, 2019 Williamson, J.), Judge David J. Williamson of the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas granted a Defendant store’s Motion for Summary Judgment in a trip and fall case.

According to the Opinion, during the afternoon hours of October 3, 2017, the Plaintiff was walking from his vehicle to the store when he tripped and fell in the parking lot due to an alleged defect in the seam between the sidewalk and a raised curb. The alleged defect was a gap that was estimated to be somewhere between one and a quarter inches wide, one and a half inches deep, and running the length of the sidewalk.

The defense filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing that the Plaintiff was unable to show that there was any defeat to the walking surface or that any alleged defect that was allegedly present was a trivial defect.

In response, the Plaintiff asserted that the triviality of a defect is a question of fact that should be put to the jury.

Judge Williamson pointed to Pennsylvania cases that reviewed the trivial defect doctrine and in which it had been held that an elevation, depression, or irregularity in a sidewalk may be so trivial that the court, as a matter of law, is bound to hold that there is no negligence in permitting it to exist. He also noted that the courts have held that there is no definite or mathematical rule that can be laid down as to the depth or size off a sidewalk depression necessary to give rise to liability on a landowner.

After reviewing prior decisions out of Monroe County involving similar facts, Judge Williamson noted in this McKenzie case that, reviewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the Plaintiff, summary judgment was appropriate as the circumstances surrounding the alleged defect did not rise to support any finding of negligence. The court noted that the gap at issue was clearly visible, not overly large, and appeared to be a part of the design of the sidewalk.

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

I send thanks to attorney Paraskevoula Mamounas, Esquire of the Allentown, Pennsylvania office of Thomas, Thomas & Hafer, LLP for bringing this case to my attention.

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