Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Approves Personal Injury Claim by Plaintiff Against a Contractor Based Upon Work Completed Years Before

In the case of Brown v. City of Oil City, No. 6 WAP 2022 (Pa. May 16, 2023) (Op. by Todd C.J.)(Mundy, J., Dissenting), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court addressed the issue of whether §385 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts imposes liability upon a contractor to a third party whenever the contractor, during the course of his or her work for a possessor of land, creates a dangerous condition on the land that injures the third party, even though, at the time of the injury, the contractor was no longer in possession of the land, and the possessor of the land was aware of the dangerous condition.

The court noted that §385 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts is entitled “Persons Creating Artificial Conditions on Land on Behalf of Possessor, Physical Harm Caused After Work Has Been Accepted.”

Section 385 addresses the liability of a party erecting or repairing a structure on behalf of a possessor of land after that work has been completed and accepted.    

This case arose out of an incident during which a Plaintiff tripped and fell on deteriorated sections of concrete steps outside of a library, which steps had been replaced by a contractor years before. The Plaintiff sued the owner of the library as well as the contractors who performed work on the exterior stairs to the library.  According to this decision, the Plaintiff stated cognizable causes of action.

After reviewing the law, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court concluded, as did the Commonwealth Court below, that a contractor may indeed be subjected to liability under §385 in such circumstances. As such, the judgment of the Commonwealth Court was affirmed.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.  Justice Mundy's Dissenting Opinion can be viewed HERE.

I send thanks to Attorney Kenneth T. Newman of the Pittsburgh, PA office of Thomas, Thomas & Hafer, LLP  for bringing this case to my attention.

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