Brown v. City of Oil City

An en banc panel of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court heard an appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant. The defendants were contractors who completed improvements to Oil City public library’s exterior steps. Soon after completion of the project, the steps began to deteriorate. The decedent slipped and fell on the steps and suffered fatal injuries. Her estate sued the contractors, who were out of possession of the property at the time of the incident. The issue of liability was complicated because the Commonwealth Court previously construed Section 385 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts to expand a contractor’s liability for a dangerous condition that it has created. But the Pennsylvania Superior Court precedent held that after a contractor leaves the property, it can be held liable in negligence to a third party only if the contractor created a danger that was unlikely to be discovered by the possessor. The Commonwealth Court held that, though Superior Court precedent provided persuasive authority, since it is an intermediate appellate court, the Commonwealth Court is compelled to follow its own precedent when it conflicts with Superior Court precedent. Thus, the Commonwealth Court followed its prior holding expanding liability and reversed and remanded the order granting summary judgment.

Brown