(3d Cir. 1989)(citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249). Rather, we will grant summary judgment unless "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
In making this determination, all of the facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in favor of the non-moving party. Id. at 256. Once the moving party has met the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the non-moving party must establish the existence of each element of its case. J.F. Feeser, Inc. v. Serv-A-Portion, Inc., 909 F.2d 1524, 1531 (3d Cir. 1990)(citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986)).
Defendants move for summary judgment on the grounds that there is no evidence suggesting that they possessed the requisite state of mind for punitive damages. Rather, the evidence demonstrates that the parking lot was degreased no less than weekly most of the year and, during the colder months, as often as the weather permitted. Further, nothing in the record before the Court indicates that a single AGA or McDonald's employee was aware of a condition in the Restaurant's parking lot creating a high degree of risk of physical harm to patrons.
Plaintiffs respond that factual issues exists concerning punitive damages because the record shows that "Defendants required patrons entering their restaurant to walk across an area that Defendants knew was prone to a heavy build-up of oil and grease .... [which], if not removed, presented a danger to patrons, and needed to be cleaned on daily basis to protect patrons." Pls.'s Mem. at 3. By continuing "to operate the drive-thru without reduction" during cold weather when they "intentionally stopped the regular cleanup of that oil and grease," Defendants' made an "economically-driven choice to expose another person to a known risk of physical harm [,which] is precisely the type of wrong for which Pennsylvania courts have held punitive damages appropriate." Id. at 3, 5.
Pennsylvania has adopted Restatement (Second) of Torts § 908(2), which provides that "punitive damages may be awarded for conduct that is outrageous, because of the defendant's evil motive or his reckless indifference to the rights of others." Feld v. Merriam, 506 Pa. 383, 485 A.2d 742, 747 (Pa. 1984). As the Superior Court recently explained, "neither mere negligence, nor even gross negligence, shows sufficient culpability to justify a punitive damages award. Rather, 'punitive damages are proper when a person's actions are of such an outrageous nature as to demonstrate intentional, willful, wanton or reckless conduct.'" Takes v. Metropolitan Edison Co., 440 Pa. Super. 101, 655 A.2d 138, 146 (Pa. Super. 1995)(quoting SHV Coal v. Continental Grain Co., 526 Pa. 489, 587 A.2d 702, 704 (Pa. 1991))(citations omitted), app. granted in part, 544 Pa. 595, 679 A.2d 225 (Pa. 1996). Conduct is sufficiently reckless to warrant punitive damages only when "a defendant knows, or has reason to know, of facts which create a high degree of risk of physical harm to another, and deliberately proceeds to act in conscious disregard of, or indifference to that risk." Polselli v. Nationwide Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 23 F.3d 747, 751 (3d Cir. 1994) (explaining Martin v. Johns-Manville Corp., 508 Pa. 154, 494 A.2d 1088 (Pa. 1985)(plurality opinion)). The defendant's state of mind is thus relevant to this determination. Rizzo v. Haines, 520 Pa. 484, 555 A.2d 58, 69 (Pa. 1989).
We conclude after a thorough review of the record that no reasonable jury could award Plaintiffs punitive damages based on the evidence before the Court. First, we agree with Defendants that there is no evidence creating a factual issue as to whether Defendants knew that the spot where Mrs. Jones allegedly slipped and fell "was prone to a heavy build-up of oil and grease." Though AGA and McDonald's employees clearly were aware that oil and grease accumulated in the parking lot, no statement suggests that Defendants knew that the area where Mrs. Jones fell was especially grease-ridden. In fact, the only pertinent statements in the depositions are directly to the contrary.
Moreover, even if Plaintiffs' could point to such a statement, there is still nothing to indicate that Defendants knew such grease and oil "if not removed, presented a danger to patrons, and needed to be cleaned on daily basis to protect patrons." Pls.' Mem. at 3. Indeed, even during warmer months, the lot was generally degreased on a weekly basis, and Plaintiffs have submitted no evidence indicating that this practice was insufficient.
Plaintiffs rely on deposition testimony that suggests that as many as 200 to 250 cars per day stopped for varying lengths of time in the general area that Mrs. Jones fell. We may reasonably infer from such evidence that oil and grease spills were more common in this area than in other areas of the lot that saw less traffic. This inference tends to prove at most, however, that Defendants should have known --or that a reasonable person in their shoes would know--that patrons had a greater risk of slipping on oil or grease in this part of the lot than in others. In Pennsylvania, punitive damages may not be imposed on a defendant for a risk of which he should have been aware, but failed to appreciate. SHV, 587 A.2d at 704-5 (quoting Martin, 494 A.2d 1088 at 1097). In Martin, a plurality of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court distinguished between two types of reckless conduct defined in Restatement (Second) of Torts § 500:
(1) where the 'actor knows, or has reason to know, ... of facts which create a high degree of risk of physical harm to another, and deliberately proceeds to act, or to fail to act, in conscious disregard of, or indifference to, that risk;' and (2) where the 'actor has such knowledge, or reason to know, of the facts, but does not realize or appreciate the high degree of risk involved, although a reasonable person in his position would do so.'