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SULLIVAN v. ALLEGHENY COUNTY. (09/11/58)

September 11, 1958

SULLIVAN, APPELLANT,
v.
ALLEGHENY COUNTY.



Appeals, Nos. 161 and 162, April T., 1957, from judgments of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, July T., 1952, No. 3170, in case of Patricia Sullivan, a minor, et al. v. County of Allegheny et al. Judgments reversed.

COUNSEL

Roslyn M. Litman, with her Litman & Litman, for appellants.

John R. Bredin, with him Pringle, Bredin & Martin, for Allegheny County, appellee.

Anton W. Bigman, for Braddock School District, appellee.

Francis A. Muracca, for Borough of Braddock, appellee.

Before Rhodes, P.j., Hirt, Gunther, Wright, Woodside, Ervin, and Watkins, JJ.

Author: Hirt

[ 187 Pa. Super. Page 372]

OPINION BY HIRT, J.

The minor plaintiff lived with her parents in a three room rear apartment on the third floor of a building on Braddock Avenue in the Borough of Braddock. Eight families in all lived in as many apartments on the third and fourth floors of the building. The first two floors were used for business purposes. The defendants took title to the premises by sheriff's deed on a sale for delinquent taxes on March 10, 1951, in a proceeding brought by the County of Allegheny. Attached to the rear of the building there was an iron fire escape with a landing on each of the floors. The photographs in evidence indicate the failure of the owners to maintain the structure in proper repair for a period long before the defendants bid in the property. In the section running from the ground level to the first floor, there was one step entirely missing, and the angle iron which had supported another step had completely rusted away from the metal stringer, thus removing support at one end of the step. Two treads were completely missing from the section of the stairs leading to the third floor. The photographs disclose an old building in a state of disrepair in other respects as well.

Adjoining the apartment house property there was a vacant lot which served as a playground for the children of the neighborhood. About 6 p.m. on the evening of May 27, 1952 the minor-plaintiff, age 4 1/2 years, was playing with two somewhat older children. The fire escape was attractive to the playing children, and on this occasion some of the older ones were climbing the structure to the fourth floor intending thence to go through the building and down the inside stairway to the exit onto Braddock Avenue. The child-plaintiff followed them and between the second and third landings fell through the opening left by one of the missing steps, a distance of 22 feet to the cement paving below.

[ 187 Pa. Super. Page 373]

When her mother first observed the child on the fire escape and ran to her aid it was too late to prevent the fall. The mother reached her as she was lying at the foot of the fire escape apparently unconscious. The child was seriously injured. Plaintiffs' medical testimony was that as a result of the fall the child sustained a severe laceration of the forehead, a fractured arm, a cerebral concussion causing traumatic epilepsy and a partial paralysis of the sixth cranial nerve which will continue to result at times, in double vision.

In this action brought on behalf of Patricia for pain and suffering and for future damages, the jury found for the child in the very moderate (in the light of her injuries) sum of $2,500. The parents sued for the medical expense in a considerable amount. The jury denied them recovery in any sum on a finding that they were chargeable with, and barred by, their contributory negligence. The majority ...


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