The Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas for Philadelphia County recently clarified the duty owed by business owners to invitees who suffer catastrophic medical emergencies on their properties.
In the case of Kronfeld v. SugarHouse HSP Gaming, L.P., the estate of a former gaming patron of Sugar House Casino sued the local cardroom following an August 2013 incident wherein the decedent and his wife’s night of gambling was unfortunately interrupted by the former’s sudden collapse and death. Specifically, the decedent’s son sued Sugar House, arguing that Casino employees failed to timely perform resuscitation and use an AED device to help his father. Sugar House moved to dismiss these allegations, contending that Pennsylvania law merely requires business owners to promptly summon medical attention for those invitees who are injured or become ill on their property.
In considering these arguments during the lawsuit’s nascence, Judge Frederica Massiah-Jackson explained that the duty owed by business owners to injured or ill invitees tracks the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 314A, and generally obliges the same to “give first aid . . . and care for [the injured] until they can be cared for by other.” Seizing upon the language calling for business owners to “care for” invitees, the plaintiffs contended that the Restatement should be read in conjunction with Pennsylvania’s EMS Act and AED Good Samaritan Act as requiring defendants to affirmatively perform lifesaving first aid in conjunction with a defibrillator. Ultimately, however, Judge Massiah-Jackson believed that such an interpretation of Pennsylvania’s approach to the Restatement goes too far, and instead sided with precedent from the Commonwealth holding that timely summoning first responders satisfies the business owner’s duty to its invitees.
Although Kronfeld is simply a trial court opinion, the reasoning Judge Massiah-Jackson employed evidences Pennsylvania’s increasing temperance with respect to the duty owed by possessors of land and business owners. Specifically, the facially broad phrase “care for” in this context would seemingly tip the scale in favor of the plaintiff when coupled with other state laws encouraging third-parties to act on behalf of the sick and injured. Kronfeld, however, reminds us that, as a matter of tort law in Pennsylvania, there has to be a difference between behavior we might aspire to versus that which is legally expected of us.
Thanks to Adam Gomez for his contribution to this post.