Cogan House Township v. Lenhart, Pa. No. 14-02035 (C.P. Lycoming May 10, 2023) (Linhardt, J.). CHT filed a complaint against Lenhart, owners of property, concerning drains that were placed. There was a lot of litigation and the matter was reversed by the Commonwealth Court, directing the court to do the following:
1. Take further evidence as to the amount of damages, if any, arising from CHT’s violation of the SWMA and CHT’s stormwater ordinance;
2. Take further evidence as to the amount of damages, if any, arising from CHT’s violation of Chapter 102;
3. Take further evidence if necessary and make findings of fact and conclusions of law as to any damages the Lenharts have sustained from CHT’s violation of Chapter 105; and
4. Take further evidence if necessary and make findings of fact and conclusions of law regarding the Lenharts’ common law claims and request for equitable relief.
As to negligence per se under the Pennsylvania Storm Water Management Act and the Clean Streams Law, the court found that the Commonwealth Court had decided CHT violated these provisions. The real question was whether there were any damages. The trial court determined there were no damages, apparently. In looking at willful misconduct, gross negligence, negligence and negligence per se, the court defined what negligence per se is.
Negligence per se is [a] form of negligence consisting of “conduct, whether of an action or omission, which may be declared and treated as negligence without any argument or proof as to the particular surrounding circumstances.” A violation of a statute or ordinance may constitute such conduct, but only if the following elements are satisfied:
“(1) The purpose of the statute [is], at least in part, to protect the interest of a group of individuals, as opposed to the public generally;
(2) The statute or regulation must clearly apply to the conduct of the defendant;
(3) The defendant must violate the statute or regulation; and
(4) The violation of the statute or regulation must be the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.”
Also raised here was common nuisance and trespass. The court found no basis for an injunction or damages, but rather that the government agencies must do a written plan.