Friday, January 3, 2020

Choice of Ways Doctrine Helps Convince Court To Deny Summary Judgment in a Fall Down Case

In the case of Ruddick v. Calandra, No. 4572-CV-2018 (C.P. Monroe Co. Oct. 21, 2019 Williamson, J.), the court found that issues of fact prevented the entry of summary judgment in a fall down case.

According to the Opinion, as the Plaintiff was leaving the home of the Defendant, the Plaintiff turned to respond to a person who had called to her. The Plaintiff then stepped off a paved walkway and fell into a depression in the ground, allegedly sustaining injuries as a result.

The defense filed a Motion for Summary Judgment asserting that the Plaintiff failed to provide any evidence of a dangerous condition on the property or that the Defendants had acted negligently. The defense also asserted that the Plaintiff had elected to step off of the walkway and onto the grass, thereby implicating the “change of ways” rule.

The court found issues of fact that prevented the entry of judgment in favor of the defense. More specifically, the evidence revealed that the Defendants admitted that a soft depression formed in their yard when it rained. As such, there was an issue of whether or not weather conditions created a defect in the yard and whether that defect was the cause of the Plaintiff’s injuries. The court thought that these issues should be left for the jury.

Judge Williamson additionally ruled that the contributory negligence issues related to the Plaintiff stepping off of the path was also a jury question.

In this regard, the defense raised the "Choice of Ways" Doctrine which holds that where a person has a choice of ways, one of which is perfectly safe, and one which is attendant with risk and dangers, and that person voluntarily chooses the dangerous way, that person is contributorily negligent and cannot recover.

There was a question as to whether the Plaintiff made a voluntary “choice of ways” in this case as both Defendants admitted that he walkway upon which the Plaintiff was located was very narrow.

The court denied the Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment and allowed the issues to proceed to a jury.

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

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Dec. 10, 2019).

Should you need any assistance bringing your premises liability case to a close, please do not hesitate to contact me to set up a mediation through Cummins Mediation Services.  I can be reached at 570-319-5899 or at  Thank you.

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