Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Trivial Defect Doctrine Found Not To Apply on Private Property

In the case of Ramsey v. Buchanan Auto Park, Inc., No. 1:16-CV-01879-CCC (M.D. Pa. March 7, 2022 Connor, J.), the court granted in part and denied in part, post-trial motions in a slip and fall case after a verdict was entered in favor of the Plaintiff.

In one notable ruling, the court held that the trivial defect jury instructions that were developed in the context of public sidewalks was not applicable in the context of alleged defects on private property that allegedly injured business invitees.

The court noted that, in any event, this topic of liability was adequately covered by the jury instructions under which the jury was advised that, in order for the Plaintiff to recover, the property must have a condition which amounted to an unreasonable risk of harm to the Plaintiff.

This decision is also notable in that the Court found that photographs of the area where the Plaintiff fell that were taken in 2017 were admissible even though there were slight variations in the conditions of the area since the Plaintiff's 2014 fall down event.  The Court noted that the photos were authenticated by a witness and that any variations were pointed out to the jury by the witness and in the jury instructions.  

The court otherwise noted that damages for lost wages awarded by a jury is not necessarily excessive merely because the award exceeds the amount of the worker’s compensation lien. The court noted that the lien is not a cap on the Plaintiff’s claim for past wage loss.

However, the court did find that the award entered by the Plaintiff for the Plaintiff’s claim for loss of future earnings was against the weight of the evidence where the Plaintiff failed to present any evidence in this regard.

The court ordered a new trial on the issue of damages after finding that the jury may have erroneously included non-economic damages in its future earnings award.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.  The Court's Order can be viewed HERE

I send thanks to Attorney James M. Beck of the Philadelphia office of the Reid Smith law firm for bringing this case to my attention.

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