Galligan v. Arovitch

Decision Date19 April 1966
Citation421 Pa. 301,219 A.2d 463
PartiesTheresa M. GALLIGAN, a widow, Appellant, v. John M. AROVITCH and Anna Arovitch, his wife, and Kevy K. Kaiserman, and Hortense Kaiserman, his wife, Individually and t/a Aronimink Arms Apartments.
CourtPennsylvania Supreme Court

Albert Ring, D'Agui & Del Collo, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Michael R. Bradley, Brooks, Oliver, Macartney & Holl, Media, for appellees.

Before BELL, C.J., and MUSMANNO, JONES, COHEN, EAGEN, O'BRIEN and ROBERTS, JJ.

COHEN, Justice.

This is an appeal from a judgment on the pleadings in favor of defendants in an action in trespass. On August 4, 1961 plaintiff suffered injuries when she tripped on the lawn area in front of defendants' apartment building, where she resided as a tenant. Plaintiff brought suit alleging negligence on the part of defendants, who filed new matter denying liability on the basis of an exculpatory clause contained in plaintiff's lease, which read as follows:

'Lessee also agrees to be responsible for and to relieve and hereby relieves Lessor from all liability by reason of any damage or injury to any property or to Lessee or Lessee's guests, servants or employees which may arise from or be due to the use, misuse or abuse of all or any of the elevators, hatches, openings, stairways, fire escapes, hallways of any kind whatsoever which may exist or hereafter be erected or constructed on the said premises or the sidewalks surrounding the buildings of which the demised premises is a part, or from any kind of damage or injury which may arise from defective construction, failure of water supply, light, power, electric wiring, plumbing or machinery, wind, lightning, storm or any other cause whatsoever on the said premises or the building of which the demised premises is a part whether such damage, injury, misuse or abuse be caused by or result from the negligence of Lessor, its servants or agents or any other person or persons whatsoever.'

Plaintiff contends that the exculpatory clause is inoperative because the injury did not occur at one of the locations specified therein, and, more broadly, that it is void and against public policy.

Absent the exculpatory clause, it is clear that plaintiff could not suffer an adverse judgment on the pleadings. Thus the lease herein pleaded by defendants has diminished her legal right to recover damages from defendants for injuries caused by their negligence. An agreement or instrument which reduces legal rights which would otherwise exist is strictly construed against the party asserting it and must spell out with the utmost particularity the intention of the parties. Morton v. Ambridge Borough, 375 Pa. 630, 101 A.2d 661 (1954). Likewise, the rules of construction require that a written instrument be strictly construed against the maker. Darrow v. Keystone 5, 10, 25, $1.00 Stores, Inc., 365 Pa. 123, 74 A.2d 176 (1950). Here, plaintiff was injured on the lawn area of defendants' premises. The exculpatory clause purports to relieve the lessor (defendants) of liability for injury or damage incurred at any of seven places--elevators, hatches, openings, stairways, fire escapes, hallways, and...

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  • Neville Chemical Company v. Union Carbide Corporation
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit
    • February 6, 1970
    ...party may validly contract to relieve himself from liability for the consequences of his own negligent acts. Galligan v. Arovitch, 421 Pa. 301, 304, 219 A.2d 463 (1966);16 Dilks v. Flohr Chevrolet, 411 Pa. 425, 433, 192 A.2d 682 (1963); Cannon v. Bresch, 307 Pa. 31, 160 A. 595 (1932); Perry......
  • Com., by Creamer v. Monumental Properties, Inc.
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Supreme Court
    • December 5, 1974
    ...Pa. 1, 7, 269 A.2d 647, 651 (1970); Reitmeyer v. Sprecher, 431 Pa. 284, 289--290, 243 A.2d 395, 398 (1968); cf. Galligan v. Arovitch, 421 Pa. 301, 304, 219 A.2d 463, 465 (1966). The words of Chief Justice, then Justice Jones accurately describe the economic plight of the modern residential ......
  • Old Town Development Co. v. Langford
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • June 17, 1976
    ...288 A.2d 34 (1972); Tenants Council of Tiber Island-Carrollsburg Square v. DeFranceaux, 305 F.Supp. 560 (D.D.C.1969); Galligan v. Arovitch, 421 Pa. 301, 219 A.2d 463 (1966); Annot., 49 A.L.R.3d 321 Two Indiana cases need be distinguished, Franklin Fire Insurance Co. v. Noll (1945), 115 Ind.......
  • Chepkevich v. Resort
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Supreme Court
    • June 21, 2010
    ...is not well grounded. It can be traced to a decision of this Court from the 1960s involving a residential lease. See Galligan v. Arovitch, 421 Pa. 301, 219 A.2d 463 (1966). The Court in Galligan refused to apply a release clause to the tenant's suit because the clause did not cover the area......
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1 books & journal articles
  • Introduction to 2011 Sullivan Lecture Symposium: Boilerplate Terms in Context
    • United States
    • Capital University Law Review No. 40-3, June 2012
    • June 1, 2012
    ...46 Johnnie’s Homes, Inc. v. Holt, 790 So. 2d 956, 960 (Ala. 2001). 47 William Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice, act IV, sc. 1. 48 219 A.2d 463 (Pa. 1966). 49 Id. at 465. 50 161 A.2d 69 (N.J. 1960). 51 Id. at 86–88. 2012] BOILERPLATE TERMS IN CONTEXT 613 position over the terms of the agreeme......

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