Tort Law

Former judge's family sues over his fatal fall at party hosted by securities class action lawyer

A prominent securities class action lawyer is facing a lawsuit by the estate of a former Pennsylvania judge who died after falling down the stairs during a party at the lawyer’s home.

The family of former Judge Robert Daniels filed the suit on Tuesday in Philadelphia court, the Legal Intelligencer (reg. req.) and the Philadelphia Inquirer report. The defendants include managing shareholder Sherrie Savett of Berger & Montague and the catering company providing food at an Oct. 1, 2011, engagement party for Savett’s daughter.

Daniels, 73, joined Philadelphia firm Elliot Greenleaf in 2008 after serving on the court for a year as a result of an appointment to fill an unexpired term, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer obituary.

The suit alleges Daniels fell down the stairs at Savett’s Bryn Mawr home while trying to avoid a member of the catering staff who “suddenly and without warning barreled out of the kitchen area, with his arms outstretched in front of him, carrying a large platter of food, and ordering guests to ‘move!’ and ‘get out of the way!’ ” Daniels was hospitalized and died two days later.

According to the suit, the dinner guests were disposing of their used dishes on shelves hung near the stairwell. “Judge Daniels’ fatal injuries were the direct result of defendants’ collective negligence, an ill-conceived party plan, and a number of unreasonably dangerous and defective conditions that were allowed to exist on the premises that night,” the complaint said, “including a negligent catering staff attempting to navigate large trays of food in an overcrowded space, over an open stairwell fitted with an oversized, malpositioned and ungraspable handrail.”

Savett’s lawyer, Harry Mahoney, issued a statement calling Daniels’ death “an unfortunate accident” but said it wasn’t his client’s fault. “Judge Daniels was attending a party at Ms. Savett’s home,” Mahoney told the Inquirer, “and he was attempting to put some dishes on a shelf inside of a stairway leading to the basement when he lost his balance and fell.”

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