Donna Fletcher filed a personal injury lawsuit in Philadelphia County Common Pleas Court naming Juan Pena as the defendant. She was walking down a sidewalk on Pena's property when she tripped, fell, and was injured. There was a pipe extending outward from a drain that caused the fall. The judge deemed that Pena was negligent because he allowed a dangerous condition to exist on his property and awarded Fletcher $25,000 in damages.
Fletcher was walking down the sidewalk that day accompanied by Sue Pearson. The drain pipe caught her foot and caused her to hit the ground. An ambulance arrived and transported her to Temple University Hospital. After undergoing X-rays and a CT scan, it was determined that she had suffered fractures of the wrist, forearm, and damaged ribs. Over the next several months as Fletcher recovered, she was unable to maintain her home and complete other day-to-day tasks. Her daughter assisted her during this time period. Pena stated that he was unaware of the existence of the pipe that caused the injury.
Dangerous Conditions Known to Possessor
The owner or controller of land may be held liable for physical harm that occurs to those legally on their property if:
- The owner or controller is aware of the existence of a potentially dangerous condition that creates an “unreasonable risk” of causing physical harm
- The potentially dangerous condition is such that an individual would not ordinarily discover or recognize it
- The owner or controller fails to demonstrate “reasonable care” to correct the condition or to warn those who may be exposed to it
- The injured party did not know that the hazardous condition existed on the property
Condition of Sidewalk
Pennsylvania law addresses the “duty to care” that a property owner or controller has regarding unsafe conditions on the sidewalk adjacent to their property. The owner is responsible for maintaining the sidewalk to prevent dangerous or hazardous conditions. This applies when the conditions pose an “unreasonable risk” to pedestrians who are walking through it.
The court acknowledged that Ms. Fletcher has some responsibility to watch and exercise caution while walking. They deemed her as being 10% negligent in the incident for not recognizing the potentially hazardous condition. This involves the concept of comparative negligence that applies to civil injury cases. As long as the plaintiff's percentage of negligence does not exceed that of the defendant(s) they may pursue damages. Any damages ultimately awarded to the plaintiff are then reduced by the percentage of negligence that they were determined to have “contributed” in the incident.
Older adults are generally the most susceptible to slip-and-fall related accidents and injuries. The rate of fatalities from falling has increased by approximately 31% since 2007 among those over the age of 65. Men are more likely to have a falling accident. Men fall at a rate of 73.2 per 100,000 people, while the rate among women is only 54. Men tend to incur more serious injuries from falls. This is largely attributed to greater alcohol consumption and undertaking more hazardous activities.