Successfully Overcoming an Opponent’s Request for Summary Judgment in Your Pennsylvania Premises Liability Case
Sometimes, it can be very subtle details that may entitle you to a successful outcome. For one western Pennsylvania slip-and-fall accident victim, he was able to win his appeal case because of an argument that a property owner and a tenant did not make in the injured man’s trial court case. Legal matters, including injury cases, can hinge upon very specific distinctions, which is just one of many reasons why it helps to have a knowledgeable Pennsylvania premises liability attorney on your side who has a detailed understanding of the law.
The injured man, Robert, and his son were constables in Westmoreland County. On one wintry day in February 2014, Robert and his son’s job duties included serving a warrant. As Robert traversed an alley and approached a gate that provided access to the property, he slipped and fell. There was ice underneath the snow in the area where Robert fell.
The fall caused the constable to suffer injuries, so he and his wife sued. The constable and his wife asserted a claim of negligence for failing to maintain the property properly and allowing snow and ice to build up in front of the gate.
In this circumstance, the location was a rental property. When you are injured on a property that is owned by one party and leased by another party, that may create some potential for complexity in your case. Whom should you pursue for compensation for your injuries? In some situations, you may be able to go forward in your case against both the owner and the tenant.
In Robert’s case, he sued the property’s owner and two of its tenants. The owner and one of the tenants asked the court to throw out the case against them. Their argument was that the spot where Robert fell was not intended to be a walkway, so they did not have a legal obligation to keep it clear of snow and ice. The trial court granted the request, stating that neither the tenant nor the landlord owned the alley where Robert fell, so they could not be liable.
The constable appealed and won. In Robert’s case, he won his appeal because of the conclusions that the trial court made. The trial judge ruled for the tenant and the landlord because, according to the judge, they didn’t own the alley. (In order to win a premises liability case, you have to sue the person or entity who owned or controlled the property where you fell.)
The problem was that the tenant and the landlord never argued that they did not own or control the alley. In fact, in some court filings, the landlord even referred to herself as “the property owner.” The order that dismissed the landlord and the one tenant from the case was an order of summary judgment. A motion for summary judgment is a very specific type of legal request. When your opponent asks for summary judgment, your opponent is essentially arguing that, even if the judge takes all of the issues in dispute and interprets them in your favor, your case still cannot succeed.
In Robert’s case, the trial court, by deciding the ownership/control issue without any argument from the parties, did not make the inferences in Robert’s favor as it was required to do. That meant that the landlord and tenant weren’t entitled to summary judgment, and Robert was entitled to proceed against all of the defendants.
What do legal lingo and procedural concepts mean for you? It means that there are many ways that your opponents in your lawsuit can undermine your case, so you need a diligent advocate who knows how to overcome those things and help you win your case. The skilled Pennsylvania premises liability attorneys at Needle Law Firm have been offering our clients careful representation and personalized attention to meet their legal needs for many years. If you have been injured in a slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall accident, talk to our team to find out how we can help you pursue the compensation to which the law says you are entitled.
Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation by calling (570) 344-1266.