For residents of Philadelphia and other urban areas, walking your dog — a daily necessity, often involves ambling along sidewalks all around the city. Consider that in Pennsylvania there are approximately 3.2 million pet dogs, with over 390,000 dogs estimated in the Philadelphia region alone. Particularly as the weather warms, swarms of dog walkers will take to our city streets with their furry friends. If you are a property owner, it is advisable to check on the current state of the sidewalk directly in front of your property, as you can be held liable for the injuries caused in a slip and fall accident.
A recent ruling on a slip and fall case in Philadelphia highlighted the risk a property owner faces when they fail to properly maintain the sidewalk in front of their property. Under Pennsylvania premises liability, both the City and Township are not responsible for the maintenance of the sidewalks; instead the obligation falls on the property owner to ensure that sidewalks are free of known defects, obstructions, or visible hazards. All property with sidewalks accessible to the public must be maintained as to be reasonable safe for pedestrians to use. In Butler v. City of Philadelphia, the court held that the two property owners, defendants Cui Lan Dong and Benyi Zhu, were legally liable for the injuries caused when the plaintiff, Abbie Butler, tripped and fell on an alleged defect in the sidewalk in front of their residential property, causing the plaintiff severe injure her dominant right shoulder.
The incident took place on November 12, 2012, when Butler, was out walking her dog along Cottman Avenue, in Northeast Philadelphia. The plaintiff alleged that she tripped on a large crack in the sidewalk causing her to loose her balance and fall. Butler who was in her sixties at the time suffered a fracture and dislocation of her right shoulder that required pain medication, physical therapy, surgery, and on going future medical care. On the day of the accident, Butler was transported by ambulance to Nazareth Hospital, where she was diagnosed and underwent a reduction procedure to reset her shoulder. After undergoing four separate physical therapy treatments, Butler was sent to an orthopedic specialist. Following her surgery the plaintiff was prescribed Oxycodone, which was taken twice a day for three months. Butler required assistance in everyday tasks, such as bathing and getting dressed. The plaintiff further alleged that the fall greatly restricted her daily actions and hindered her ability to enjoy her favorite pastime, gardening.
The defendants contended in their pretrial memo that they were never made aware of a defect in the sidewalk by neither their tenants, nor had the city of Philadelphia recorded any complaints about the maintenance of the sidewalk. The defendants also stated that the day of the alleged accident was a clear sunny day and that there were no obstructions in place to block plaintiff’s sight. The defendants also argued that the condition of the sidewalk was open and obvious, so much so, that the plaintiff should have seen the crack as there was grass growing out of it. The jury found that the defendants were negligent, and that Butler was not contributorily negligent, awarding the plaintiff $200,000 in damages.
If you or a loved one has recently suffered a serious bodily injury after a slip and fall accident caused by a negligently maintained sidewalk, a personal injury attorney may be able to help you seek compensation for your injuries. Call today and a personal injury specialist will be able to determine whether you have grounds for a case. Please contact us online or call 1 800 7 LEGAL 7 for a Free Case Evaluation.