Premises Liability – The Rita’s Water Ice Philadelphia Tragedy

Philadelphia and the surrounding area featured gorgeous weather conditions this past weekend–mostly sunny skies and warm summer temperatures. Many folks down the shore and in the city visited local businesses to get their fill of frozen treats.

Local Tragedy Resulted in the Death of a 3 Year Old Girl

Premises Liability - The Rita’s Water Ice Philadelphia Tragedy

Philadelphia police crime scene officers investigate the scene of the Saturday death of a three-year-old child, crushed when a security door fell into a crowd at the Rita’s Water Ice at 2829 West Girard Ave. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer / Philly.com)

On Saturday afternoon, Cheryl Larkin and her 3 year old daughter, Wynter, attended a fundraising event at Rita’s Water Ice in the Brewerytown section of Philadelphia. While there, the 2,000 pound security gate attached to the front of the business suddenly fell from the wall and onto Wynter Larkin. About 25 men and women joined efforts and eventually lifted the security gate off of the toddler. Wynter Larkin was rushed to Hahnemann University Hospital, but was pronounced dead shortly after her arrival.

A preliminary investigative report issued by the Philadelphia Police Department indicated that the lag bolts, used to anchor the security gate to the concrete face of the Rita’s, may have been a few inches too short. A neighboring business owner stated that Rita’s employees often asked his employees for help when closing the loose and shaky gate at night. Philadelphia Police and the Department of Licenses and Inspections are investigating the incident further.

More Than Slip & Fall – Premises Liability Holds Business Owners Responsible

According to data analyzed by the National Center for Health Statistics, accidents are the leading cause of death for people aged 1 to 42. About 47% of these accidents take place in the person’s home. The remaining 53% occur elsewhere; such as slipping and falling in a parking lot or tripping over uneven flooring in the lobby of a local business. These accidents may be due to a business or the business’ employee’s failure to find and fix a dangerous condition on the business property. In these situations, business owners and/or their employees may be held responsible for failing to keep the property safe for their customers. Among other things, a business owner may be responsible for maintaining:

  • the sidewalk near an entrance or exit;
  • their parking lot;
  • the inside of the business’ premises;
  • the entrance or exit doors; and/or
  • fixtures connected to the business property (e.g., lights, poles, and security gates).

Tragedies similar to the incident at Rita’s happen to unsuspecting people, through no fault of their own. For the victims and their loved ones, these accidents frequently involve physical, emotional, and psychological injuries. Victims and their families face the reality of inflated medical bills, time off from work, and lost wages.

Fortunately, the law holds businesses responsible when they fail to maintain a reasonably safe property for their customers and visitors. The responsibility of a business open to the public to discover dangerous conditions extends beyond only open and obvious defects on the premises. In fact, businesses must discover hazards that are not obvious, so that business owners and their employees are held responsible for injuries that are caused by a dangerous condition that could have been discovered by a reasonable inspection.

A Pennsylvania premises liability attorney will investigate the facts of your case, and consult the appropriate experts to determine how thorough an investigation the business must conduct to determine whether the business met its responsibilities.

While horrific and sad, injuries and deaths like the one that occurred this past weekend are not uncommon. Whether your injuries are due to an accident or a business owner’s neglect, it is important if you, or a loved one, suffered a severe injury while on the premises of a business to consult with an attorney. Injuries often result in burdensome medical costs as well as pain and suffering, or, in the worst case scenario, the accident could result in tragic death.

An experienced premises liability lawyer in Philadelphia or New Jersey may be able to help you or your loved one recover for these injuries and damages.

Slade McLaughlin and Paul Lauricella are experienced trial attorneys who have secured eight figure verdicts and settlements for clients who have suffered catastrophic injuries in the past. Contact McLaughlin & Lauricella, P.C. for your free and confidential consultation today.

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