Playground injury trial under way

Jon Campisi May 4, 2011, 7:26am

A mother's lawsuit against a maintenance contractor for a Philadelphia homeless shelter is at trial in the Court of Common Pleas.

Tanya Blount is suing U.S. Facilities Inc. and Mount Airy Bethesda Manor Inc., a nonprofit organization, over injuries her daughter, Treasure Blount, suffered on monkey bars in July 2007 at Stenton Family Manor, a homeless shelter at 1300 E. Tulpehocken Street that is run by Mount Airy Bethesda Manor.

The allegedly defective playground equipment caused Treasure Blount to suffer physical injuries ranging from severe laceration, infection, scarring and nervous shock to mental and emotional pain and anguish, according to the lawsuit.

Tanya Blount is seeking damages in excess of $50,000, the complaint states.

The jury trial is being heard in front of Common Pleas Court Judge George Overton.

During trial May 3, Blount’s attorney, Gregory Kowalski, of the Philadelphia law firm Pansini & Mezrow, questioned one of his expert witnesses, Julius Pereira III, a consultant specializing in facility safety.

Pereira indicated that the injuries suffered by Treasure Blount on the monkey bars at the playground could have been avoided if U.S. Facilities properly inspected the equipment.

“There are a number of very simplistic options to deal with that situation,” Pereira testified.

Those options, he said, could have included placing duct tape on the portion of the monkey bars that were damaged. He also suggested caution tape could have done the trick, since it would have deterred use.

Pereira said the playground equipment in question had been in poor condition for three months.

“U.S. Facilities [was] aware, through people at Mount Airy [Bethesda Manor], that these conditions existed,” Pereira testified.

The City of Philadelphia, also named as a defendant in the case, “should be uniquely aware of conditions at the property they own,” Pereira added. .

On cross-examination, attorney Joseph Oberlies, who represents Mount Airy Bethesda Manor, grilled Pereira over the fact that the consultant, self-admittedly, had never been to the accident site.

“Never touched the monkey bars, right,” Oberlies asked.

“Since I didn’t go there, I never touched them,” Pereira conceded.

Pereira said a visit to the playground would be moot, since the monkey bars have since been remedied.

“I’d be taking pictures of something that didn’t exist anymore,” he testified.

Pereira said his conclusion as to the equipment's condition came through research. This included interviews, visiting Internet sites and viewing the playground in question via satellite imagery on his computer.

To that, Oberlies propped up a defense exhibit: a picture showing that two separate playgrounds exist on the grounds of Stenton Family Manor. Oberlies questioned whether Pereira could distinguish between the two, especially since he hadn’t visited the location.

Pereira continued to insist the defectiveness of the equipment was obvious.

“What is the issue here,” plaintiff attorney Kowalski asked at one point.

“Maintenance, pure and simple,” Pereira replied.

The case number is: 090701851.

More News