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FOR PROPERTY OWNER - $________ AGAINST DEFAULTED TENANT Premises liability - Fall from porch - Lack of railing - Alleged code violations - Ligament injury to plaintiff fire marshal - 90% comparative negligence found.

Montgomery County, PA

The plaintiff was a female fire marshal who responded to a house owned by the defendant property owners. While at the premises, the plaintiff fell from a porch which she claimed was dangerous and lacked an appropriate railing. The tenant of the premises was also named as a defendant in the case. The tenant was in default and was not represented at the time of trial.

The plaintiff was a 48-year-old female at the time of the incident. She testified that she responded to a fire disturbance at the defendants’ address and found that the son of the tenant had been setting off fire crackers. The plaintiff walked between the houses and went two steps up to a porch where she saw other fire personnel. The plaintiff spoke with the tenant and his son in the kitchen of the home and was leaving the premises at approximately 8:00 p.m. The plaintiff stepped off the edge of the porch and fell some 30 inches to the ground.

The plaintiff’s engineer testified that the defendant’s porch was dangerous and violated applicable building codes in that it lacked a railing and the steps did not extend the length of the small porch. The plaintiff’s physicians testified that the plaintiff sustained torn ligaments as a result of the fall and that surgery was an option for the future.

The defendant’s engineer testified that the building code provisions cited by the plaintiff’s expert were not applicable, as the defendant purchased the house in the early 1980s before those provisions were implemented into law. The defense argued that the condition of the porch was open and obvious and that the plaintiff failed to watch where she was walking.

The plaintiff had suffered polio as a child. She had undergone several prior surgeries and was left with a permanent leg-length discrepancy. The defendant’s orthopedic surgeon opined that the plaintiff’s fall-related injuries had resolved and that any residual disability was related to the plaintiff’s preexisting condition.

The jury found that the defendant property owner was not negligent. It found the defendant tenant 10% negligent and the plaintiff 90% comparatively negligent. The plaintiff was awarded $________ as against the defaulted tenant.

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