Governmental Immunity • Real Property • Personal Property

Sanchez-Guardiola v. Philadelphia, PICS Case No. 14-0436 (Pa. Commw. March 10, 2014) Simpson, J. (14 pages).

Plaintiff tripped and fell over a moveable platform in a terminal at the Philadelphia Airport and sued for her resulting injuries. The trial court granted summary judgment to the city because the platform could not be considered real property for purposes of the real property exception to governmental immunity in 42 Pa.C.S. §8542(b)(3). Plaintiff appealed. Affirmed.

Plaintiff was walking between terminals at the Philadelphia airport when she approached a statue to take a picture, tripped over an unmarked platform about 12 inches high and sustained permanent back injuries. She sued the city and the city filed a motion for summary judgment alleging that plaintiff’s negligence claim did not fall within any of the eight exceptions to governmental immunity in 42 Pa.C.S. §8542(b). The city argued that the platform was personal property rather than real property.

On appeal, plaintiff contended that the trial court erred in entering summary judgment for the city based on an affidavit of a city employee as to the nature and history of the platform and its alleged lack of permanency or attachment to the surrounding floor. However, plaintiff failed to present any evidence sufficient to establish that the platform was permanently attached to the surrounding floor. Thus, the trial court’s grant of summary judgment did not violate the Nanty-Glo rule. The platform constituted moveable personal property and as such, did not create a hazardous condition constituting a defect in the real estate itself.

Plaintiff also argued the platform constituted a dangerous condition on the property since it was carpeted similarly to the surrounding floor and hidden by large flower pots. The courts have long held that a claim under the real property exception must arise from the realty itself or the care, custody or control of it. The real property exception is unavailable when the claims arise from the negligent maintenance of personalty. Under Blocker, the platform, not affixed to the surrounding floor, is an item of personalty akin to furniture and not part of the real property for purposes of the real property exception.

Plaintiff’s injuries were caused by the alleged negligent care of the moveable platform, not by the negligent care of the real property itself. Thus, the trial court did not err in granting the city’s motion for summary judgment based on governmental immunity.