Summary Judgment Granted Based on Obvious Condition

On February 22, 2013, an Allegheny County trial judge ruled that a property owner and contractor represented by Gerard Cipriani and Jeff Olszewski were not liable to a Pittsburgh Police officer who stumbled and fell on the corner of a client's construction site. 

The officer was present in the area as part of a traffic detail unrelated to the construction project. Early in the officer's shift, a truck accident occurred at a nearby intersection. The accident caused the officer to move backwards rapidly without looking. The officer proceeded to trip on a pipe or depression and fall into a construction fence, sustaining a fractured ankle among other injuries.

After the close of discovery and within weeks of trial, the Judge was asked to dismiss Cipriani & Werner's clients as they owed no duty to the officer (See Section 343(b), Restatement Second of Torts). The officer admitted at deposition that she knew she was standing on a construction site, saw the pipe and depression near her and did not look where she going because of the occurrence of the truck accident. The Judge held that there was no genuine issue of material fact that the officer would fail to discover or realize the danger created by the pipe or depression and granted summary judgment. The existence of the pipe/depression was an open and obvious condition appreciated by the officer. Interestingly, the Judge did not grant the trucking company's summary judgment motion, stating that it was a jury question whether it was reasonably foreseeable that the officer might be injured reacting to the truck accident.