Thursday, January 28, 2021

No Duty of Care Found on Service Companies Where Tree Limb Fell and Injured Plaintiff



In the case of Matthews v. Prospect Crozer, LLC, No. 355 EDA 2020 (Pa. Super. Nov. 23, 2020 Dubow, J., Lazarus, J., Ford Elliott, P..J.E.) (Op. by Dubow, J.), the court affirmed a trial court dismissal of the Plaintiff’s negligence claims against certain Defendants where there was no evidence that those Defendants undertook an ongoing duty to perform inspections and maintenance of trees on the property in a case where a tree limb fell and injured the Plaintiff. 

According to the Opinion, the Defendant landowner had a contract with the landscaping company and a snow removal company to periodically do work on the premises as needed. 

According to what the court termed as "hypothetical evidence" generated during the course of discovery, the landscaping Defendant and the snow removal Defendant generally noted that they would have notified the property owner if either noticed an issue with the trees on the property. 

The landscaping Defendant also noted it had occasionally performed tree-related work years prior to the incident. 

It was also generally and hypothetically noted during the course of discovery that the property owner expected both companies to inspect and maintain trees on the property as of the time of the Plaintiff’s incident.

The Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s entry of summary judgment after finding that the testimonial evidence cited by the Plaintiff in the record was hypothetical in nature and, therefore, insufficient to support any argument that the landscaping company or the snow removal company undertook a duty to inspect and maintain the trees on the property.

The court also noted that the fact that the landscaping company had occasionally performed tree-related work years before the subject incident was also insufficient to establish that the landscaping company had gratuitously agreed to inspect and maintain the trees.

The court also noted that the property owner’s stated alleged expectation that the Defendant companies would have maintained the trees was also insufficient to impose a duty upon the landscaping company and the snow removal company in the absence of any evidence that they actually undertook that duty.

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


Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Dec. 8, 2020).


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