Superior Court vacates Philly ruling transferring man's Cancun slip-and-fall lawsuit

By Scott Holland | May 24, 2019

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently said a lower court erred when it granted a motion for reconsideration in a negligence lawsuit and then transferred the case to another court.

In its May 14 opinion, the Superior Court vacated the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas' ruling in the lawsuit filed by David Robinson, who slipped and fell at Secrets Silversands Resort in Cancun, Mexico, and remanded the case back to that court for further consideration. 

Robinson alleged his injury occurred April 15, 2016, and later sued Secret Silversands and several resorts and travel companies.

On Aug. 31, 2018, a Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas judge granted the companies’ motion to reconsider earlier rulings, vacated an earlier order overruling their preliminary objections, sustained preliminary objections for improper venue and transferred the case to Delaware County.

Robinson appealed that decision Sept. 6, asking the Superior Court whether the trial court erred or abused its discretion when granting the motion for reconsideration and transferring the case.

Superior Court President Judge Emeritus Susan Gantman wrote the panel’s non-precedential opinion. Judges Anne Lazarus and Paula Ott concurred.

According to the opinion, Robinson’s appeal said he was deprived of the right, under state and city civil procedure rules, to a 20-day window to respond to the reconsideration motion. He claimed the court acknowledged in its opinion that it granted the motion prematurely and said the only remedy is vacating the ruling and remanding for further proceedings.

“This court has previously vacated and remanded for further proceedings where a trial court failed to comply with the requirements” of Pennsylvania civil court rules, Gantman wrote, citing several paragraphs of state code, including clauses such as “the court may not enter an order that grants relief to the moving party unless the motion is presented as uncontested or the other parties to the proceeding are given an opportunity for an argument.”

Gantman cited earlier Superior Court opinions as establishing precedent for Robinson’s appeal.

The panel reviewed the timeline, noting the businesses objected to the venue on July 2, which the court overruled in a July 31 order that was entered Aug. 1; the parties were notified Aug. 3. On Aug. 17 the businesses moved for reconsideration, which opened a 20-day window for Robinson to respond. But the court granted the motion for reconsideration on Aug. 31, almost a week before the Sept. 6 deadline for Robinson’s response.

“In its opinion, the trial court acknowledges its error and asks us to remand the case for further consideration,” Gantman wrote. “We agree with the trial court that remand is required, where appellant (Robinson) was deprived of the opportunity to respond to appellees’ motion for reconsideration.”

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Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas Superior Court of Pennsylvania

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