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WSHB’s Philadelphia Partner Secures Summary Judgment in Catastrophic Premises Liability Matter

August 7, 2019

Andy Kessler, WSHB’s newest partner in our Philadelphia office, has secured summary judgment in favor of his clients in a case in Monroe County, Pennsylvania involving the assault of a tenant’s guest at a party. Plaintiff, a social guest of the tenants, brought suit against Mr. Kessler’s clients, out of possession Landlords, after being viciously assaulted by trespassers at a party that the tenants were hosting. The trespassers, members of a local gang, “crashed” the party and then without provocation began to randomly assault other guests. During the assault, the gang members repeatedly kicked and punched Plaintiff in the head.

As a result of the trauma to his brain, Plaintiff was placed in a medically-induced coma for eight days. Plaintiff alleged that as a result of the beating he sustained permanent brain damage, leaving him unable to complete his college education or ever be employed. As a consequence of his injuries, Plaintiff pursued claims for his past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, punitive damages and a loss of earning capacity claim that was valued in excess of five million dollars.

Mr. Kessler successfully argued that the Landlords did not owe any type of duty to the tenants’ guests. In relying upon the general rule in Pennsylvania that an out of possession landlord is not responsible to injuries sustained by third parties on leased premises, Mr. Kessler also established that none of the exceptions to this general rule were supported by the evidence adduced during discovery—i.e., the Landlords did not retain any interest in the property; the premises were not being used for admission of the general public; the Landlords never agreed to undertake or perform repairs to the premises; and there were no unsafe physical conditions of the property that were hidden from the tenants. Mr. Kessler effectively maintained that as the Landlords had no knowledge of the party, they could not be held responsible for the subsequent criminal acts of trespassers who entered the premises and randomly attacked a guest.

Mr. Kessler also defeated the claim that the Landlords owed the Tenants a duty to protect them against the criminal intrusion. As there was no evidence that the Landlords had ever agreed to provide a program of security for the subject property, the Landlords were not obligated to provide security for the tenants or their guests for the unforeseeable criminal acts of third parties.

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