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Pennsylvania Landowners Also Have a Duty to Protect Invitees from Intentional Harm

August 26, 2022

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In <em><a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Massaro-v.-McDonalds-Corporation.pdf">Massaro v. McDonalds Corporation</a></em>, the Pennsylvania Superior Court found that landowners had an affirmative duty to protect invitees from intentional harmful acts of third parties. On September 21, 2018, the plaintiff, Thomas Massaro, went to a McDonald’s restaurant in Philadelphia to tutor a student. While tutoring the student, a man named Bryant Gordon entered the store and began berating Massaro with racial slurs and hateful remarks. The beratement went on for an hour while McDonald’s staff watched. Massaro repeatedly asked McDonald’s staff to intervene or call 911; however, they did nothing. Bryant physically threatened Massaro and the student and said that he would harm them. Massaro fell during the assault and suffered injuries to his skull.

Massaro filed suit against McDonald’s, alleging it was negligent by failing to prevent the attack. In response, McDonald’s filed preliminary objections to the complaint in the nature of a demurrer. Specifically, McDonald’s asserted that the complaint had no legal basis as McDonald’s did not owe a duty to Massaro because (1) Massaro assumed the risk of an attack by remaining in the McDonald’s; and (2) McDonald’s did not have a duty to prevent Massaro from intentional harm.

The trial court granted McDonald’s preliminary objections, but Massaro appealed. The Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed reasoning that a landowner has an affirmative duty to protect invitees not only against known dangers, but also against dangers that might be discovered with reasonable care. In Massaro’s case, it was clear that the danger presented to him was clear to McDonald’s employees. Further, Massaro did not assume the risk of an attack. There were no facts indicating that before he went to the McDonald’s he had information that the attacker would be there. Further, it was apparent on the complaint’s face that Massaro feared further harm if he left and the Court thus took issue with the business’ failure to prevent the harm.

Thanks to John Lang for his contribution to this article.  Should you have any questions, please contact <a href="mailto:tbracken@wcmlaw.com">Tom Bracken</a>.

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