Attorney didn't pursue slip-and-fall before statute of limitations expired, says Delco woman in legal malpractice lawsuit

By Nicholas Malfitano | Oct 18, 2018


PHILADELPHIA – A Delaware County woman alleges her former attorney committed professional malpractice by not timely prosecuting a premises liability complaint on her behalf, before the relevant statute of limitations expired.

Elizabeth Leventhal of Crum Lynne filed suit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on July 19 versus Soloff & Zervanos, P.C. and John Zervanos, Esq., both of Philadelphia.

On Feb. 28, 2014, Leventhal slipped and fell due to a dangerous and defective condition of the property located at or near 1212 Holland St., Apt D., in Crum Lynne, which caused her to suffer serious and permanent injuries, she says.

More than 10 months later, in January 2015, Leventhal entered into an attorney-client relationship with the defendants and signed a contingency fee agreement for them to prosecute a claim in the above matter, the suit says.

However, the litigation states that the defendants chose not to file a complaint until Oct. 29, 2015, over eight months after being appointed as the plaintiff’s attorneys and only four months prior to the statute of limitations deadline. The defendants filed a premises liability lawsuit in the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas for negligence against defendants, Stanley Park and Linda Park.

The complaint alleged the following:

“Sometime prior but within several weeks of Feb. 28, 2014, the ceiling within the plaintiff’s apartment began to leak of water and eventually the ceiling caved in causing the water to leak throughout Plaintiff’s apartment, flooring, carpeting and into the common landing that separated plaintiff’s front door way to the stairway and landing leading to the exit of the building.

“On or about Feb. 28, 2014, due to sub-freezing weather conditions the area of water just outside plaintiff’s apartment froze on the landing and as plaintiff stepped out of her doorway onto the landing she slipped and fell causing her to fall down the steps on the stairwell, causing injuries more particularly described hereinafter.”

The injuries involved included, but were not limited to, “Neck and back pain, including cervical disc herniations with displacements and impingement on nerve roots all resulting in future medical treatment, including but not limited to an anterior and posterior cervical decompression and stabilization, severe scarring, disfigurement, pain and suffering, embarrassment, humiliation, and loss of life’s pleasures, all to her great determinant and loss.”

“However, the Park defendants were not the owners of the property on the date the plaintiff slipped and fell on the defective property. Instead, the Park defendants had sold the property on Jan. 7, 2014, over seven weeks before plaintiff’s devastating slip and fall incident. The complaint was served on the Park defendants on Nov. 6, 2015,” the suit states.

“The Park defendants failed to answer the complaint and on Feb. 26, 2016, default judgments were entered against the Park defendants for their failure to appear and respond to the complaint. The statute of limitations for the plaintiff’s claim was Feb. 28, 2016.”

On Sept. 14, 2017, the defendants filed a motion requesting an assessment of damages hearing, pursuant to Rule 1037(b)(1). More than four months later, on Jan. 31, the Park defendants filed a motion to open/strike the default judgments against them.

“On Feb. 7, 2018, defendant Zervanos informed plaintiff Leventhal, for the first time, that he had committed legal malpractice by failing to file a lawsuit against the proper parties in connection with plaintiff’s claim occurring on or about Feb. 28, 2014, and that she should bring a legal malpractice claim against him because it is the only way she would recover compensation for the damages she incurred as a result of her slip and fall incident of Feb. 28, 2014,” per the litigation.

“Defendants then abandoned Plaintiff in the matter of Leventhal v. Park. Defendants failed to advise her on how to proceed with prosecution of this claim. Defendants filed a motion to withdraw as counsel in the matter of Leventhal v. Park Et.Al on April 23, 2018, which was granted on May 10, 2018.”

Subsequently, the Court granted the Park defendants’ motion to open/strike the default judgment against them on June 29. By that time, the statute of limitations had expired in Leventhal’s case, preventing her from recovering any compensation in the form of a settlement or judgment from the property owner and/or responsible or liable parties.

For a count of professional negligence, the plaintiff is seeking damages in excess of $50,000, plus interest, costs and a trial by jury.

The plaintiff is represented by Brent Wieand of Wieland Law Firm, in Philadelphia.

The defendants have not yet obtained legal counsel, according to Court records.

Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 180702116

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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