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Pennsylvania Court Holds in Favor of Mountain Resort as Injured Plaintiff Fails to Demonstrate Existence of Dangerous Condition

In a recent case before the Pennsylvania Superior Court, the court reviewed a grant of summary judgment in favor of a mountain resort in a slip and fall negligence lawsuit.  This case involved the plaintiff’s allegations of a dangerous condition on the premises of a mountain resort. On appeal, the court analyzed whether the plaintiff presented sufficiently genuine issues of material fact to defeat a summary judgment motion that had been granted in favor of the defendant.  

This negligence lawsuit stemmed from an incident in which Tiffany Mittereder slipped and fell on concrete flooring inside the Foggy Goggle, a bar and restaurant at the Seven Springs Resort.  After drinking a few cocktails throughout the three hours of her stay at the Foggy Goggle, Ms. Mittereder was on her way to the restroom when she slipped, falling and injuring her arm, which required extensive surgery.  Ms. Mittereder had been wearing ski boots and allegedly slipped on ice on the floor.

Ms. Mittereder filed a negligence lawsuit against the Seven Springs Resort.  The Resort moved for summary judgment, which was granted on the grounds that there were no issues of material fact. Ms. Mittereder appealed, alleging she had presented sufficient circumstantial evidence and facts to show a genuine issue of material fact. She also alleged that the summary judgment motion was premature because discovery had not been completed.

Regarding whether there was a genuine issue of material fact about the existence of a “dangerous condition,” the court turned to the test set forth in Carredner v. Fitterer, 469 A.2d 120 (Pa. 1983).  There, the rule of law stated that a landowner is subject to liability if it knows or should know of an unreasonable risk of harm, should expect that others will not be able to protect against the harm, or fails to take care to protect against the danger.

Here, the evidence in support of a dangerous condition included a statement made by an unidentified witness implying there was water or slush on the floor.  The Resort had no actual notice of the water or ice on the floor.  Since the Resort did not have notice of the condition, it could not expect that anyone would fail to protect themselves from the condition.

Again, citing Carrender, the court stated that when a fall is the result of water on the floor, the plaintiff must show that the landowner failed to monitor and maintain the area. While Ms. Mittereder did not present evidence showing that the Resort breached a duty to monitor the Foggy Goggle, the Resort presented evidence that six bartenders and seven waitresses were at the restaurant that day. These employees had received training regarding reporting spillage or other conditions to housekeeping.

The court next analyzed the sufficiency of circumstantial evidence sufficient to defeat the summary judgment motion. In the cases that Ms. Mittereder cited in support of her position, the court stated that there was at least circumstantial evidence showing a dangerous condition existed near the fall at the time of the fall. Here, Ms. Mittereder stated that she turned a corner and fell. She did not, prior to the fall, see anything that might have caused her to fall.  The court stated it is “axiomatic” that if there is not a dangerous condition observed, liability for a dangerous condition cannot be imputed to the Resort.

Viewing the evidence in her favor, since Ms. Mittereder was the party not moving for summary judgment, the court stated that it remained clear she could not demonstrate the trial court erred or abused their discretion in granting summary judgment against her.

Regarding the allegation that the summary judgment motion was granted prematurely, the court stated that it was unclear how additional discovery would have helped Ms. Mittereder’s case or saved it from summary judgment.

The court affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of the Resort.

At Needle Law, P.C., our premises liability attorneys can evaluate your case and help you recover the damages you deserve.  Contact the office at570-344-1266 or via the online form.

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