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Recent Arbitration Awards Favor Homeowners

Two recent arbitration awards resulted in favorable decisions for Mitchell Gallagher clients. Gary Weber represented defendants in one case involving a personal injury damage claim and in a second case involving damage from a fire.

stairsIn the first case, tried in August 2020 in Northumberland County, a tenant sued her landlord for alleged defective stairs. The stairs provided access from a dining room to a landing that led to the second floor stairs. Plaintiff claimed that, as she rushed down the stairs, she twisted her ankle, causing a fracture. She believed that the stairs should have had a railing and that the steps were "spongy." She sought damages for pain and suffering, lost wages and medical expenses. The landlord produced evidence that the stairs were as sturdy as the day they were built - over 100 years ago. Also, the mechanism of injury established the cause of the injury was the tenant's own misstep, and not the fall that occurred after the ankle injury.

The arbitration panel found for the landlord. No appeal was taken.

fireIn October, a Snyder County panel refused to award damages on a claim for fire related damages.

The case came about after an October 2016 fire burned defendant's home to the ground. The home, a converted church, was a complete loss, and the fire cause was undetermined. Plaintiff, a neighboring property owner was never-the-less determined to sue to attempt to recover for his uninsured losses, including claimed damage to shrubs, a "box elder" tree, an arbor and ruts caused by fire engines.

At the hearing, the plaintiff produced photos that showed that defendant's property was cluttered (shortly after moving in) and he claimed that the property was to be used as music venue and recording studio, with heavy electricity needs. He sought damages to replace all his shrubs, the tree and the arbor, in excess of $18,000.

The defense showed that the so-called music venue stage was actually the former church chancel, where the kitchen was constructed. No evidence of defendant's negligence was produced. Also, recent photographs of the "damaged" shrubs showed remarkable recovery such that they had almost doubled in height, and the "custom arbor" had been repaired by plaintiff without replacing it.

The arbitration panel was unimpressed by plaintiff's case and found for defendant.