The Superior Court of Pennsylvania has affirmed the granting of summary judgment by the Court of Common Pleas of Monroe County, in favor of out-of-possession residential landlords who were represented by Andy Kessler, a partner in WSHB’s Philadelphia Office. The Plaintiff, who was 22 years old at the time of the event, attended a birthday party at a residential rental property and later in the evening sustained catastrophic injuries when he was savagely beaten by a mob who “crashed” the party.
Plaintiff claimed that the landlords (a husband and wife owned/managed several properties in the town) were liable because they had actual knowledge that the tenants were illegally using the property as a venue to hold parties at which they were charging admission to the public and serving alcohol to minors, but nevertheless failed to take responsive action.
Kessler argued, and the Superior Court agreed, that while there are exceptions to the general rule that an out-of-possession landlord owes no duty to non-tenants who are injured while on leased premises, none of those exceptions were applicable to this case. Kessler highlighted to the Court that at the time they leased the premises, his clients had no knowledge that the tenants intended to use the premises to host parties that were open to the public, charge admission to the same or permit underage drinking to occur. Kessler also pointed out that the record was devoid of any evidence that the landlords had actual knowledge of any prior violent incident at the property or of any security issues at the property before the attack on Plaintiff occurred. While the landlords had heard rumors of loud parties, where the tenants were warned to turn down the music, this evidence alone was insufficient to establish that the landlords should have anticipated a future violent incident. As Kessler noted, “This was a significant victory for our clients and for out-of-possession residential landlords in the Commonwealth. Plaintiff’s counsel’s attempt to hold our clients to a standard typically reserved for commercial landlords and this tactic was rejected by the Superior Court. Our clients are thrilled with the outcome after almost seven years of hard-fought litigation.”