When is a defect in the sidewalk trivial?
When someone has a personal injury or premise liability case from tripping and falling on a sidewalk or walkway, the case often turns on whether the property had a significant defective. Was the defect significant enough that a landowner or person responsible for the maintenance of the property should be held responsible for the medical bills, lost wages, etc. of the injured person? Whether a defect is significant is most often a question for the jury to decide. However, if the court determines that the defect is trivial, the Judge will stop the case before it goes to a jury. Pennsylvania Courts have refused to draw a black and white line with regard to the size defect necessary to overcome a trivial defect challenge by the defense or insurance company.
One Court ruled that a 1/2 inch defect in a city sidewalk was trivial and therefore the injured party could not proceed with his personal injury case. The Courts continue to look at the facts of each case. Recently, a Court ruled that a 5/8 inch defect is not trivial as a matter of law, and should be decided by the jury. See Reinoso v. Heritage Warminster, 2015 Pa. Super 8. This Court said that evidence in the case that the Plaintiff’s expert demonstrated that the defect fell below the standard of care and the fact that the Defendant’s employee said that if he had seen the defective sidewalk, he would have told his supervisor was enough to send the case to a jury.