Common Owners Get Hit With Joint Liability (PA)
In a recent case from the Eastern District of PA, Snyder v. Hunt, the court granted plaintiff’s appeal for a directed verdict after finding plaintiff established a prima facie case of premises liability against common landowners. Evidence provided multiple owners of a driveway extending between two rows of houses and enjoyed an easement over the driveway in common with other abutting owners, would all be jointly and severally liable in the absence of an agreement to the contrary. Thus, all were responsible for the maintenance and repair of that portion of the driveway abutting or located on his/her land. Mscisz v. Russell, 487A.2d 839 (Pa. Super. 1984).
The plaintiff in the case tripped and fell while crossing a common driveway at an apartment complex owned by the defendants. The subsequent case was based on a negligence claim alleging that the owners have a duty to maintain the sidewalk and they breached the duty, The defect was a hole in the pavement. The driveway was a common driveway owned by several different parties and the city, and all the defendants filed cross-motions for indemnification and contribution against each other. On remand, the court held that the trial court should direct verdicts against all defendants. Additionally, because the plaintiff was not contributorily negligent, the Fair Share Act, did not shield the defendants from common law joint and several liability.
This case is a good reminder to counsel to examine all cross claims against potential third parties, as well as the plaintiff if contributorily negligent.
Thanks to Kevin Riley for his contribution to this post. Should you have any questions, please contact Tom Bracken.