Thursday, September 24, 2020

Peculiar Risk and Retained Control Doctrines Applied in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment

In the case of Kinlaw v. Pennsylvania American Water Co., No. 17-CV-6738 (C.P. Lacka. Co. Sept. 15, 2020 Nealon, J.), Judge Terrence R. Nealon of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas granted summary judgment in favor of the Defendants in a slip and fall case in a matter in which the Plaintiff’s attorneys had previously withdrawn from their representation of the Plaintiff and in which the pro se Plaintiff did not secure other counsel or appear at the argument on the Motion for Summary Judgment. 

According to the Opinion, this matter arose out of a slip and fall that occurred at the Elmhurst Dam in Roaring Brook Township. 

At the time of the accident, the Pennsylvania American Water Company owned the dam and a Co-Defendant was a general contractor for a restoration project that was being performed on the dam. 

The general contractor had hired Century Security Systems as an independent contractor to provide security at the dam site. The Plaintiff alleged that she was working for Century Security Systems as a security guard at the dam when she slipped and fell as she exited her vehicle. 

Before the court was a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the Pennsylvania American Water Company and the general contractor in which it was asserted that the Plaintiff’s work location and conditions were controlled exclusively by her employer, Century Security Services, and that, as such, liability could not be imposed upon the Pennsylvania American Water Company or the general contractor under either the “retained control” or the “peculiar risk” doctrines.

After reviewing these doctrines in detail and applying the law to the facts presented, Judge Terrence R. Nealon of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas found that the Plaintiff’s claims were barred as a matter of law. 

More specifically, the court found that there was no evidence that the Plaintiff’s fall was caused by a condition that was different from the customary risks associated with security work or that any such risk was allegedly foreseeable to the moving Defendants at the time the contract with the security company was executed. The court also noted the record lacked any evidence or even any suggestion that the moving Defendants possessed any form of superior knowledge or information would somehow place them in a better position to appreciate any risks presented by any alleged dangerous condition involved.   

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

If you have a trip and fall or a slip and fall matter that you would like to try to resolve before the end of the year, please consider Cummins Mediation Services.  Please contact me at 570-319-5899 or at

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