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LISA REIDER v. FRANK A. MARTIN (01/05/87)

filed: January 5, 1987.

LISA REIDER, APPELLANT,
v.
FRANK A. MARTIN, JOHN BRZYSKI AND J.T.B. ASSOCIATES, A PARTNERSHIP, APPELLEES



Appeal from the Order entered on January 13, 1986 in the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, Civil Division, at No. 1983-C-3509.

COUNSEL

Daniel K. McCarthy, Allentown, for appellant.

Edward J. McKarski, Easton, for appellees.

McEwen, Del Sole and Tamilia, JJ.

Author: Del Sole

[ 359 Pa. Super. Page 587]

During the academic year of 1982-1983, Appellant, a Lehigh University senior, rented one of three apartments located at 28 East Third Street, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, owned by Appellees. On or about February 4, 1983, Appellant was raped, beaten, and robbed in the stairway outside her apartment. The perpetrator, one Melvin Dean Smith, had entered the building through an unsecured front door

[ 359 Pa. Super. Page 588]

    and followed Appellant up the stairs as she entered her apartment building.*fn1

Appellant commenced this civil action for damages, alleging that Appellees were negligent in failing to supply the apartment building with an operative front door lock. On numerous occasions prior to the February 4, 1983 incident, Appellees were informed by Appellant and other tenants that the front door lock of the building was inoperative and requested that the lock be repaired or replaced. In response, Appellees notified their tenants that the necessary repairs and/or replacements would be performed. Despite these repeated assurances, the lock remained in disrepair up to the night of the rape and assault. Appellant contends that, as a result of Appellees' negligence, she sustained severe psychological injuries, humiliation, pain and suffering, loss of income and deprivation of life's pleasures.

A jury trial commenced on April 22, 1985 in which Appellant was ordered to first present her case on liability. Two days of testimony were presented on Appellees' notice of the defective lock, their assurances that they would repair the lock, and their failure to do so. Following this testimony, Appellees presented before the trial court a Motion for Compulsory Non-suit. Thereafter, the non-suit was granted based upon the court's interpretation of the case of Feld v. Merriam, 506 Pa. 383, 485 A.2d 742 (1984). In Feld, our Supreme Court held that no general duty of a landlord exists to protect tenants against criminal instrusion; however, if a landlord agrees, or voluntarily proffers protection in order to attract or keep tenants, the landlord may incur such a duty. Id. at 506 Pa. 392-394, 485 A.2d 747.

Appellant filed a Motion for Post-Trial Relief on May 2, 1985 which requested the trial court to remove the non-suit. Appellant's Motion for Post-Trial Relief was subsequently denied by Order of Court on January 13, 1986. This appeal follows.

[ 359 Pa. Super. Page 589]

Appellant advances before this Court two charges of error allegedly committed by the trial court. First, Appellant contends the trial judge improperly interpreted the applicability of Feld v. Merriam, supra, in relation to the facts of the instant case. Second, Appellant claims the trial judge abused his discretion in granting Appellees' various motions in limine.

Our scope of review for determining whether a compulsory non-suit should have been granted is well established. A judgment of non-suit may be entered only in clear cases and a plaintiff must be afforded the benefit of every fact and reasonable inference arising from the evidence. Likewise, all conflicts in the testimony must be resolved in the plaintiff's favor. McNally v. Liebowitz, 498 Pa. 163, 171, 445 A.2d 716, 719 (1982). "Thus an order granting a non-suit is proper only if the jury, viewing the evidence and all reasonable inferences arising from it, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, could not reasonably conclude ...


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