HARRISBURG – The Superior Court of Pennsylvania ruled in favor of Wells Fargo in an injury lawsuit filed by a woman who claimed she was seriously injured trying to walk through the doors at one of the defendant’s bank branch location.
On Nov. 15, Judge John T. Bender of the Superior Court ruled plaintiff Gwendolyn Bellamy did not provide sufficient evidence to overturn a granting of summary judgment to Wells Fargo Corporation, in her personal injury litigation against the banking institution.
Bender said, “Plaintiff commenced this case on July 30, 2013, with the filing of a complaint, raising one count of negligence against defendants, Wells Fargo Corporation, and Imperial/Aramingo General Partners. The complaint averred that on Aug. 26, 2011, plaintiff, who ‘ambulated with a walker,’ attempted to manually open the door to exit the bank, and fell to the ground. Plaintiff averred that the lack of handicap doors was negligence causing her injuries.”
On June 1, 2015, Wells Fargo filed a motion for summary judgment, averring that video showed that plaintiff backed into the exit door to open it, and fell when another customer entered the bank.
“On July 27, 2015, this court granted Imperial/Aramingo’s motion for summary judgment and Wells Fargo’s motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff did not file a motion for reconsideration of this order,” Bender said.
“On July 28, 2015, plaintiff filed a timely notice of appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, with respect to the order granting summary judgment in favor of Wells Fargo. Plaintiff did not appeal with respect to the order granting summary judgment in favor of Imperial/Aramingo,” Bender added.
Bender explained to prove negligence successfully, Bellamy had to prove the following four elements: (1) A legally recognized duty that the defendant conform to a standard of care; (2) The defendant breached that duty; (3) The causation between the conduct and the resulting injury; and (4) The actual damage to the plaintiff.
“Although we acknowledge the importance of ensuring accessibility for individuals with mobility disabilities in places of public accommodation, we cannot conclude that Wells Fargo was under a duty to protect plaintiff from the manual doors,” Bender said.
Bender stated Bellamy asked the Court to characterize the manually-operated doors as an unreasonably risky condition pursuant to Section 343 [of the Second Restatement of Torts].
“In making this argument, plaintiff would effectively require all businesses to have automatic doors. We concede that automatic doors would likely be safer and easier for individuals with mobility disabilities to navigate. Nevertheless, it does not mean that having a manually-operated door…poses an unreasonable risk, or a hazard, to individuals. In other words, plaintiff does not demonstrate that the manual door itself is a defective condition,” Bender said.
Bender indicated Bellamy “did not offer any evidence or authority that Wells Fargo expected, or should have expected, that she would not discover or realize the danger of using the manually-operated door, or would fail to protect herself against it.”
“On the other hand, Wells Fargo claims that plaintiff had been visiting that specific Wells Fargo facility at least once a month for nearly 7 years, which plaintiff does not dispute. This evidence indicates that the manual door was known and obvious to plaintiff, and she had used it for several years preceding the incident at issue,” Bender said.
Finally, Bender explained Bellamy did not demonstrate how Wells Fargo failed to exercise reasonable care and convince the Court that the manual door, by itself, is a defective condition in need of repair.
“While we are sympathetic to plaintiff, we must conclude that she has not demonstrated that Wells Fargo had a legally recognizable duty to protect her from manual doors. As the trial court pointed out, this matter sounds more in enforcing or amending the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, than in negligence. Consequently, we affirm the trial court’s order granting Wells Fargo’s motion for summary judgment,” Bender said.
The plaintiff was represented by Lee D. Rosenfeld of Messa & Associates, in Philadelphia.
The defendants were represented by Louis Hockman of Mintzer Sarowitz Zeris Ledva & Meyers and Kevin W. Lynch, both also in Philadelphia.
Superior Court of Pennsylvania case 2391 EDA 2015
Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas 130704117
From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at firstname.lastname@example.org