August 14, 2014 by Nicole Y. Brown Damages, Pennsylvania, Premises Liability 0 comments
No Punitives For Playground Personal Injury (PA)In Saul v. Spring Valley Fitness, Inc., a Pennsylvania trial court analyzed the sufficiency of the plaintiff’s evidence with respect to her claim for punitive damages. Saul was a member of Spring Valley Fitness, an exercise facility that provided a playground for its members’ children to play, while the parents worked out. Saul claimed that while she was exercising, her child was injured on the playground when she fell from some equipment and broke her arm. Saul contended that SVF did not provide her with verbal or written warning about the inherent dangers of the playground, despite the fact that a week before another child had injured himself on the same playground. Saul sued for damages under a negligence theory and also alleged that SVF’s behavior was reckless and, as such, warranted the award of punitive damages. In support of her claim for punitive damages, Saul offered an expert report that opined that the playground was a gross deviation from the reasonable and prudent standards of care and that the child’s injuries were directly related to SVF’s reckless indifference. Coupled with the fact that two accidents had occurred within a short time period, Saul claimed that was entitled to punitive damages. In determining whether Saul was entitled to punitive damages, the court noted that she would need to establish that SVF acted in an outrageous fashion either due to an evil motive or due to a reckless, willful or wanton indifference to others. Further, the court defined reckless behavior as conduct that creates an unreasonable risk of physical harm to another and such risk is substantially greater than the standard used to prove basic negligence; however, a showing of gross negligence is insufficient and would not result in punitive damages. Ultimately, the court concluded that SVF’s alleged failure to supervise, evidenced by the two accidents did not constitute reckless behavior. The evidence that Saul offered merely established that SVF was inept and likely committed gross negligence. Therefore, Saul was not entitled to punitive damages. Thanks to Colleen Hayes for her contribution to this post. For more information, please contact Nicole Y. Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.