PHA Didn't Have Duty to Maintain Fire Extinguisher
Facts: A resident sued the local PHA for injuries she suffered while preparing a meal in her kitchen. At the time, a grease fire started. While the fire was shooting up to the hood of the stove, the resident grabbed the fire extinguisher that was on the floor of her kitchen, pumped it twice, and sprayed the fire. When doing so, the fire escalated. As a result, the oil from the pan sprayed the resident on her face and body, causing her injuries.
Regarding the fire extinguisher, the resident testified that between the years 2005 and 2007, someone from the PHA’s maintenance staff knocked on her door and stated that he was there to install a fire extinguisher. The resident stated that the man was wearing a PHA uniform and had identification, and there was a white utility van parked outside of her house. The maintenance man came into her home, hung the fire extinguisher on the wall in her kitchen, and left without leaving any paperwork or asking her to sign anything. Four to six weeks later, the fire extinguisher fell off the wall, and the resident contacted maintenance to put it back up; she received no response. Each year, during maintenance inspections of her home, the resident would tell the inspectors that the fire extinguisher needed repairing; the resident testified that the inspectors said they would look into it, because they didn’t know where she got it from. The resident was also told by the PHA inspectors that they didn’t give out fire extinguishers to tenants any more, and didn’t know where she got the fire extinguisher in her kitchen.
The trial court dismissed the case in favor of the PHA, and the resident appealed.
Ruling: A Pennsylvania appeals court upheld the lower court’s decision.
Reasoning: The court ruled that the resident didn’t establish that the fire extinguisher was in the possession or control of the PHA. There was no evidence to suggest that the PHA took control of the fire extinguisher by undertaking the task of repairing and maintaining it. Additionally, the resident failed to establish that the PHA had any duty to maintain the fire extinguisher. When she asked maintenance workers to repair and re-hang her fire extinguisher, they didn’t do so and repeatedly told her that they didn’t think the PHA provided tenants with fire extinguishers. Despite her numerous requests, no one from the PHA ever came to fix the fire extinguisher. Additionally, she testified that there was no reference to a fire extinguisher in her lease agreement with the PHA.
- Johnson v. Philadelphia Housing Authority, April 2016