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Colihan v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

March 25, 1997

SHEILA COLIHAN, Plaintiff
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants

         COUNSEL:

          For SHEILA COLIHAN, PLAINTIFF: LLOYD R. HAMPTON, HAMPTON AND HAMPTON, ASHLAND, PA USA.

          For UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEFENDANT: NADINE M. OVERTON, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, PHILA, PA USA. For UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, DEFENDANT: JAMES G. SHEEHAN, ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY-CIVIL DIVISION, PHILA, PA USA.

          For UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFF: JAMES G. SHEEHAN, ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY-CIVIL DIVISION, PHILA, PA USA.

          JUDGES: JAMES R. MELINSON, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          OPINION

          JAMES R. MELINSON, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

         This is a tort action against the United States of America alleging the negligence of United States Postal Service employees while acting within the scope of their employment. Plaintiff, Sheila Colihan, initiated this civil action as a result of injuries sustained from a fall that occurred on February 16, 1994, on the sidewalk outside the United States Post Office located in Ashland, Pennsylvania. Colihan is employed as a staff nurse in the Emergency Room at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. At the time of the fall, Colihan was thirty years old.

         Colihan seeks to recover money damages for past and future lost wages, medical expenses, and past, present and future pain and suffering from the defendant, the United States Postal Service.

         This case was tried before this court without a jury on January 15, 1997. After carefully considering all the evidence presented at trial and the proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law filed by the parties, this court makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law as required by Rule 52 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         FINDINGS OF FACT

         On February 11, 1994, Ashland, Pennsylvania was stricken by a snowstorm that left an average of 21 to 25 inches of snow and ice. During the following days, the temperatures varied and resulted in the repeated melting and freezing of the snow and ice. As the result of this significant snowfall, employees of the post office shovelled a walkway from the parking lot to the building for the use of the patrons of the post office.

         On the morning of February 16, 1994, Alan McCormick, a supervisor at the Ashland Post Office, arrived at 5:45 a.m. to ready the post office for the day's business. At approximately 6:00 a.m., and again at approximately 7:45 a.m., calcium chloride, a melting agent, was applied to the sidewalk outside the Post Office by McCormick and his fellow employee, Walter Tedrick. At a corner of the building nearest Colihan's fall there was an approximately 38 inch accumulation snow. This accumulation was the result of snow drifting off the roof and snow shoveled from the sidewalk to clear a walkway to the Post Office. The walkway was shoveled by post office employees. A yellow sawhorse was placed beside the sidewalk in front of the snow accumulation as a warning to patrons of the post office that a dangerous condition existed.

         Colihan maintains a post office box at the Ashland Post Office. On the morning of February 16, 1994, she arrived there at approximately 8:45 a.m. to pick up her mail. Colihan had just dropped her daughter off at school, and decided to stop at the post office on her way back home. She was wearing sweat pants, a sweat shirt with a night shirt underneath, a hip-length jacket, and cross-trainer sneakers. She left the car engine running to keep it warm in the cold ...


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