Jury awards $250K in playground injury trial

Jon Campisi May 6, 2011, 4:37pm

A Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Jury awarded a 9-year-old girl $250,000, and her mother, $15,000, after a three-day premises liability trial.

In July 2009, city resident Tanya Blount sued U.S. Facilities Inc., a maintenance company, along with a nonprofit organization that operates a homeless shelter, for injuries her daughter, Treasure, then 5, suffered after being impaled by broken monkey bars at the Stenton Family Manor at 1300 E. Tulpehocken Street.

The City of Philadelphia was named as the third co-defendant, since the shelter is situated on city-owned property.

Attorney Joseph Oberlies, who represented Mount Airy Bethesda Manor, the nonprofit that operates the shelter, had stated from the beginning of the trial that liability wasn’t a question. Mount Airy Bethesda had admitted accountability all along, he had said. The case, he argued at trial, was about damages, and what would be a fair monetary compensation.

In the lawsuit, Tanya Blount had asked for damages jointly, and/or severally, in an amount in excess of $50,000.

During closing arguments May 5, plaintiff’s attorney Steven Mezrow sought to stress to the jury the injuries sustained by Treasure Blount after she became impaled on monkey bars at a playground on the homeless shelter’s grounds.

“This is a case about corporate responsibility,” Mezrow said in court. “They didn’t do their jobs. None of them did their jobs. If they had done their jobs, none of us would be here today.

“This really is a case of horrific injuries, physically, mentally and emotionally,” Mezrow continued.

Mezrow said Treasure not only suffered physical injuries, but was humiliated by the scar on her leg.

Oberlies said Mezrow and his co-counsel, attorney Gregory Kowalski, also of the Philadelphia law firm of Pansini & Mezrow, were focusing too much on the injuries, when, in fact, the defendants’ attorneys never disputed this fact.

In fact, Oberlies said, the defendants’ lawyers were the ones who showed the jury the picture of young Treasure’s badly scarred leg in the first place.

Oberlies said his client accepted responsibility, and what the case was really was about awarding fair compensation.

The lawsuit hinged on the fact that U.S. Facilities allegedly knew about the defective monkey bars, but did nothing to prevent possible injuries. Julius Pereira, a facility safety consultant, testified for the plaintiff during the trial.

Pereira said on the stand that steps could have been taken, such as placing duct tape on the monkey bars, or even cordoning them off with caution tape, to ensure that injuries like this would be prevented.

There were no punitive damages issued in this case, only compensatory damages, which covers the plaintiff for any physical injuries and things like continued emotional suffering.

All three defendants in the case were found one-third liable, meaning they will divide the damages by percentages.

The case number was 090701851.

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