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Judge Grants Summary Judgment in Personal Injury Case
Based on Failure to Establish a Prima Facie Case of Negligence

Mintzer Sarowitz Zeris Ledva & Meyers LLP recently secured a summary dismissal of the defendant in a personal injury case filed in Pennsylvania by arguing that the plaintiff failed to establish in the record a prima facie case of negligence. The plaintiff, a restaurant patron, proceeded to the restroom after being served her meal. While walking through the lobby, she fell, injuring her arm. The plaintiff told medical professionals who responded to the scene that she had tripped over her own two feet. The plaintiff further testified at her deposition that she did not see what caused her fall and did not remember how she fell. Restaurant employees testified that the plaintiff "seemed to have fallen over nothing," though the plaintiff testified that she fell "over something."

By arguing that the plaintiff had failed to meet her burden of establishing negligence, MSZL&M succeeded in its Motion for Summary Judgment. Specifically, counsel argued that the plaintiff failed to:

  1. Identify the specific dangerous condition that allegedly caused the plaintiff's fall;
  2. Establish that the defendant created or was aware of the condition;
  3. Establish that the defendant breached its duty of care in failing to remedy the condition; and
  4. Establish that any negligence on behalf of the defendant was the proximate case of the plaintiff's injuries.

The judge agreed.

The standard for negligence in Pennsylvania is set forth as follows: "to state a cause of action for negligence, a plaintiff must allege facts that establish the breach of a legally recognized duty or obligation of damages suffered by plaintiff." Scampone v. Highland Park Care Center, LLC, 57 A.3d. 582, 596 (Pa. 2012). Further, when a patron is injured by a condition on the land, the patron must show that the possessor of land knew or should have known of a condition that would cause an unreasonable risk of harm and expected that the patron would not discover or realize the danger, and the possessor of land failed to protect its patrons. Restatement (Second) of Torts ยง 343.

The plaintiff failed to articulate at any point in the record the specific condition that caused her fall. The judge found that possible conditions which might have caused her fall were not sufficient to establish a prima facie case of negligence. Further, the judge found that even assuming the possible conditions were the cause, the plaintiff had failed to show that the defendant was aware or had created any of them.

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