Pennsylvania Record

Friday, December 6, 2019

Slovene society, sued by man who fell out of tree at festival, asks judge to throw out lawsuit

State Court

By Nicholas Malfitano | Aug 8, 2019

SNPJ Rec Center

PITTSBURGH – An Enon Valley recreation center and Slovene benefit society have declared that the allegations contained in a lawsuit filed by an Illinois man and his mother after he was allegedly paralyzed by a fall from a tree during a music festival there should be dismissed.

Luke Krisciunas and Karen Bushman of Lemont, Ill. initially filed a complaint on June 20 in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas versus SNPJ Recreation Center of Enon Valley and Slovene National Benefit Society of Imperial. The group is a nationwide society that provides life insurance to members of Slovene descent.

According to the suit, on July 7, 2017, Krisciunas attended the music festival “Slovenefest," which was sponsored by the Slovene National Benefit Society and held at SNPJ Recreation Center.

The suit stated Krisciunas’ friend’s brother suggested that the plaintiff climb a tree in order to see around the event and find certain attractions. Then, Krisciunas did so and one of the tree branches broke, causing him to fall from a height of approximately 15-20 feet onto an uplifted tree root.

Krisciunas was then airlifted to the hospital and treated for a number of injuries, including fractures and paraplegia. He alleged he was told he will never walk again and is confined to a wheelchair.

The plaintiffs claimed the defendants failed to warn that the tree and/or branch was rotting and dangerous.

“Furthermore, there were many employees and members of SNPJ Recreation Center and Slovene National Benefit Society walking around while they were climbing the tree and no one ever told them to stop and/or get off the tree,” the lawsuit says.

However, on July 29, the defendants filed preliminary objections to Krisciunas and Bushman’s lawsuit, alleging their claims are without merit.

“In paragraph 17 of the complaint, plaintiff Karen Bushman makes a claim for emotional distress. Under Pennsylvania law, [she] has failed to make a valid claim for emotional distress. In paragraphs 32 through 34, [she] claims loss of filial consortium and damages for medical/hospital expenses. Under Pennsylvania law, [she] is not entitled to claim these types of damages in this lawsuit. [She] has failed to state a cause of action upon which relief may be granted and should be dismissed from this lawsuit,” the objections read, in part.

More objections followed, explaining the plaintiffs’ claim that the tree in question fell under the Attractive Nuisance doctrine is invalid because he was not a child or trespasser and the tree was not an artificial condition; that the claim of the tree branch breaking was insufficiently pled because there was no specificity as to what part of Krisciunas’ body was in contact with said branch; that claims for punitive damages and attorney’s fees were not properly pled or supported; and the suit’s verification was not signed by either plaintiff, with no reason given.

For all of the above reasons, the defendants believe the case must be dismissed.

For counts of negligence and loss of services, the plaintiffs are seeking damages, individually, jointly and severally, compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney’s fees, costs of suit and other such relief which the court may deem just and proper in excess of $50,000, in addition to a trial by jury.

The plaintiffs are represented by Jordan K. Merson of Merson Law, in Philadelphia.

The defendants are represented by Susan A. Kostkas and Paul J. Walsh III of Walsh Barnes Collis & Zumpella, plus John W. Zotter and Adam S. Auchey of Zimmer Kunz, all in Pittsburgh.

Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas case GD-19-008916

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at

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