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Stuski v. Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

May 25, 2017

Michael Stuski, Appellant
v.
Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development, CBRE, Inc. and CB Richard Ellis, Inc.
v.
JPC Group, Inc. and City of Philadelphia, Department of Public Property

          Submitted: May 2, 2017

          BEFORE: HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge HONORABLE ANNE E. COVEY, Judge HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, Senior Judge

          OPINION

          ANNE E. COVEY, Judge

         Michael Stuski (Stuski) appeals from the Philadelphia County Common Pleas Court's (trial court) April 11, 2016 order granting the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development (PAID), CBRE, Inc. (CBRE) and CB Richard Ellis, Inc.'s (collectively, Defendants) motion for summary judgment (Motion) and dismissing Stuski's complaint (Complaint) with prejudice. The sole issue before the Court is whether the trial court erred by granting summary judgment in Defendants' favor and dismissing Stuski's Complaint. After review, we affirm.

         Stuski was employed by the City of Philadelphia (City) Police Department's (Police Department) Traffic Division (Traffic Division). The Traffic Division has offices in what is known as The Navy Yard (Property), on the second floor of Building 501, 4500 South Broad Street, Philadelphia. The City's Department of Public Property (Property Department) leased the Property's second floor and a fenced parking lot for the exclusive use of the Traffic Division's employees (Parking Lot), from PAID pursuant to a March 29, 2004 Agreement of Lease and general terms and conditions attached thereto (2004 Lease). On March 8, 2005, PAID and the City entered into another Agreement of Lease with appended general terms and conditions for additional portions of the Property (2005 Lease).

         On February 9, 2013, at approximately 6:40 a.m., Stuski arrived for work, parked in the Parking Lot and, as he got out of his car, slipped and fell on snow and/or ice. Stuski claims that, as a result of the fall, he suffered injuries and damages. On November 5, 2014, Stuski filed the Complaint against Defendants, alleging therein that the Defendants' negligence and/or carelessness caused his injuries. See Reproduced Record (R.R.) at 1a-13a. Stuski also asserted in the Complaint that PAID contracted with CBRE to provide the property management services at the Property, and CB Richard Ellis, Inc. was responsible for snow and ice removal from the Parking Lot. Defendants filed an answer and new matter to the Complaint, denying Stuski's allegations.[1] See R.R. at 14a-28a. Stuski replied to Defendants' new matter. See R.R. at 29a-30a. The parties undertook discovery.

         Defendants filed the Motion on February 1, 2016, arguing therein that Defendants did not owe Stuski a duty of care since, under the 2004 Lease and the 2005 Lease, it was the City's responsibility to remove snow and/or ice from the Parking Lot. See R.R. at 53a-258a. Stuski filed a response to the Motion. See R.R. at 259a-292a. On April 11, 2016, the trial court granted the Motion and dismissed Stuski's Complaint with prejudice. See R.R. at 293a. Stuski appealed to this Court.[2]The trial court filed its Opinion pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Appellate Procedure 1925(a) (1925(a) Opinion), wherein it explained that Stuski's evidence established that the City, rather than Defendants, were responsible for snow and/or ice removal from the Parking Lot at the time of Stuski's fall. See R.R. at 295a-307a.

         Initially,

in order to prevail in a negligence action under common law, the plaintiff must establish that: (1) the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff; (2) that duty was breached; (3) the breach resulted in the plaintiff's injury; and (4) the plaintiff suffered an actual loss or damages.

Brown v. Dep't of Transp., 11 A.3d 1054, 1056 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2011). Moreover,

[s]ummary judgment may be granted if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.

Scutella v. Cnty. of Erie, 938 A.2d 521, 526 n.3 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2007). "Summary judgment may be granted only in those cases where the right is clear and free from doubt." Laich v. Bracey, 776 A.2d 1022, 1024 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2001). Accordingly, in order for Stuski's claims against Defendants to survive summary judgment, the record must, at the very least, establish that Defendants owed Stuski a duty of care. If no duty was owed, Stuski would not be entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         Stuski argues that the trial court erred by granting Defendants' Motion because there existed genuine issues of material fact about whether Defendants owed him a duty of care.[3] Defendants in the Motion contend that "[t]he undisputed evidence . . . demonstrates that the City - not [] Defendants - had the duty to remove snow and ice from the Parking Lot." R.R. at 64a. As the moving party, "[Defendants have] the burden of proving that there is no genuine issue of material fact." Laich, 776 A.2d at 1024.

         Here, Defendants support their Motion with the City's 2004 Lease (Motion Ex. F), 2005 Lease (Motion Ex. G), witness deposition testimony (Motion Exs. B-D, I-K) and December 14, 2004 emails (Motion Ex. H).[4] There is no dispute that the City leased a portion of the Property from PAID under the 2004 Lease. Section 11.01 of the 2004 Lease specified, in relevant part:

[The City] shall keep and maintain the entire Leased Premises in good order, condition, and repair and free of trash and will not commit waste, nuisance or unreasonable annoyance (including without limitation, excessive noise, noxious odors, dust or dirt) to [PAID] or other tenants. [PAID] shall maintain, repair, and replace all fixtures, equipment, improvements and systems in the Leased Premises. [The City] shall reimburse [PAID] for all operation, repair and maintenance costs associated with its occupancy of the Leased Premises . . . .

R.R. at 153a (emphasis added). The 2004 Lease defined "Leased Premises" as

the space in the property known as Building 501, 4500 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA as shown on the plan(s) attached as Exhibit 'A' to the General Terms [and Conditions], constituting the entire second floor, . . . a section in the northeast corner of the ...

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