PAMELA PANANSEWICZ and JOHN PANANSEWICZ, her husband, Plaintiffs,
WILLIAM B. JENNINGS and KIMBERLY M. JENNINGS A/K/A KIMBERLY M. SMITH Defendants.
Date Submitted: October 23, 2013
On Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.
On Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment.
Daniel D. Martin, Esq., Daniel D. Martin & Associates, Wilmington, Delaware 19806. Attorney for Plaintiffs.
Arthur D. Kuhl, Esq., Reger Rizzo & Darnall LLP, Wilmington, Delaware 19801. Attorney for Defendants.
Calvin L. Scott Judge
Defendants William Jennings ("Defendant-husband") and Kimberly Jennings ("Defendant-wife") move for summary judgment on claims arising from Pamela Panansewicz's ("Plaintiff-wife") fall from wooden stairs attached to the deck of a home that she and John Panansewicz ("Plaintiff-husband") rented from Defendant-husband. The Court has reviewed the parties' submissions. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is GRANTED, in part, and DENIED, in part, and Plaintiffs' Counter-motion for summary judgment is DENIED.
On July 1, 2010, Plaintiffs signed a lease to a property owned by Defendant-husband located at 334 Dillwyn Drive in Newark, Delaware. Plaintiffs moved in on July 9, 2010. On the evening of July 20, 2010, Plaintiff-wife fell while using wooden stairs attached to the deck in order to take her dog for a walk. Plaintiff-wife placed her right foot onto the first tread from the ground and the tread "bowed and tilted and [her] foot slid backwards in between the steps." Although Plaintiff-wife did not know whether the tread detached, Plaintiff felt as though it "lifted up."
Prior to signing the lease, Plaintiffs visited the property three times. On the first visit, Plaintiff-wife informed Defendant-husband that the tread was "wobbly" or "not completely solid." According to Plaintiff-wife, Defendant-husband stated that he "knew that the deck was in bad repair and that he would get it fixed when he got back from vacation." Plaintiff-husband also observed that the steps were "rotting and in disrepair" and "loose."
As owner, Defendant-husband assumed sole responsibility for making repairs on the property. Defendant-husband made no repairs to the deck or stairs prior to Plaintiff-wife's fall. After Plaintiff-wife's fall, Defendants inspected the stairs. Defendant-husband stated that he observed no problems with the stairs, other than the fact "that they had no backs."
Plaintiffs filed this suit for negligence, alleging that "the steps, among other defects, were improperly installed and maintained, uneven and had no backing that would prevent such an injury." Plaintiffs asserted that Defendant-husband breached his duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition, allowed a dangerous condition to exist on the property, failed to repair the dangerous condition, and that Defendants knew or should have known of the dangerous condition. Plaintiffs claimed that Defendant-wife was also negligent based on her management of the property and that Defendant-husband was liable for her negligence based on respo ...