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Slip and Mall
by Ron Davis

A Pennsylvania man has fallen far short in his effort to prove negligence on the part of the owners of a Pittsburgh-area shopping center.

The shopping center is Century III Mall, and the negligence charge stems from a slip-and-fall accident that the man sustained while shopping there. He lost his footing while on a flight of stairs in the center’s common area, then claimed that his fall resulted from a “liquid soapy type of cleaner” that he stepped in on one of the stairs. He admitted, however, that he does not know how long the substance had been on the stairs prior to his fall. Nevertheless, he sued the shopping center owners, claiming that they failed to maintain the premises in a safe condition.

In response, the shopping center’s owners argued that there is no evidence to prove that the alleged dangerous condition was the result of any direct negligence of any of their employees. Moreover, they added, there was no evidence that any of their employees knew of any dangerous condition, nor how long it could have existed before the slip-and-fall accident.

Under Pennsylvania law, a property owner must “know of or by the exercise of reasonable care would discover” a condition that involves a risk of harm to persons invited onto his property. But the property owner must also “exercise reasonable care to protect those visitors against danger.” If he meets those criteria, the property owner is not liable for injuries that a visitor sustains.

A Pennsylvania appellate court, in ruling in favor of the shopping center’s owners, explained, “The injured party has not established facts sufficient to impose liability upon the property owners. He admitted that he does not know how long the substance he slipped on was present on the stairs. Furthermore, the nature of the substance does not establish that any of the property owners’ employees spilled the substance or that they should have been aware of its presence.” (Porro v. Century III Associates, 2004 PA Super 105)

Decision: April 2004>BR> Published: May 2004



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