Articles Posted in Slip and Fall

Last month, an appellate court in Rhode Island issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit that was brought by a tenant of an apartment complex who slipped and fell on a patch of black ice in the complex parking lot. At the conclusion of the plaintiff’s case against the complex’s management company, before the case was presented to the jury, the trial judge granted the defendant’s motion for judgment as a matter of law. The appellate court was tasked with determining whether the trial judge was proper to decide the case as a matter of law rather than submit the case to a jury for a factual resolution of the plaintiff’s claim.

Winter RoadThe Appellate Court’s Decision

In the above case, the appellate court determined that the lower court was improper to decide the case as a matter of law. The court explained that there was evidence presented by the plaintiff indicating that the defendant may have been negligent. Specifically, the plaintiff testified that the defendant would plow any fallen snow in the parking lot to an area that was slightly above the level of the parking lot. Thus, when the snow melted, water would run onto the parking lot, where it could later re-freeze, creating a hazard. Indeed, the plaintiff also presented evidence, through his wife’s testimony, that he had complained about these ice patches on numerous occasions.

Judgment as a Matter of Law in Maryland Courts

In Maryland personal injury cases, it is the judge’s job to rule on all legal issues. For example, a judge will often determine which evidence the jury is able to consider and instruct the jury on the law that pertains to the case. The jury’s job is to then apply the law as explained by the judge to the facts of the case, resolving any factual disputes.

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In personal injury trials, the judge acts as the gatekeeper to determine which evidence the jury should hear. In making these evidentiary decisions, the judge must apply the appropriate rule of evidence. While the rules of evidence present a good guideline to assist a judge in making these decisions, issues often arise in a legal “gray area,” requiring the judge to apply the law to the facts of the case and come up with a reasoned decision.

Cracked PavementMaryland Rule of Evidence 5-407 deals with subsequent remedial measures. A subsequent remedial measure is an action taken after an injury occurred, usually by a defendant, to remedy the hazard that allegedly caused the plaintiff’s injury. Generally speaking, evidence that a party took remedial action after an injury occurred cannot be used against that party. This encourages defendants who are facing allegations of negligence to fix potential hazards without fear of conceding liability in the pending lawsuit.

With that said, Rule 5-407 contains several exceptions. One exception is that evidence of a subsequent remedial measure may be introduced for purposes other than to show liability. A recent case illustrates how one plaintiff was able to introduce evidence of a subsequent remedial measure.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a premises liability case brought by a woman who was injured when she slipped and fell after stepping in a puddle on a train platform. The appellate court ultimately affirmed the lower court’s granting of summary judgment in favor of the defendant, finding that the accumulated rainwater was not a dangerous condition as defined under the law.

Train PlatformThe Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was attempting to catch a train that was operated by the defendant transportation agency. As the plaintiff approached the train, she walked on a covered concrete platform. Since it had been raining earlier that day, there was a puddle near the door to the platform.

The plaintiff told the court that she saw the puddle but did not think it would be slippery. However, as she stepped in it, she slipped and fell. The plaintiff was injured as a result and filed a premises liability lawsuit against the transportation agency, claiming that it was negligent in allowing the puddle of water to form.

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Being involved in a serious accident is a traumatic experience. Often, along with the weeks or months of physical recovery, there is a lengthy emotional recovery process as well. Many times, people may suffer from nervous episodes or may refrain from engaging in certain activities. These are understandable side effects of being involved in a serious accident.

Wet Floor SignThe law in Maryland allows for those who have been injured in a serious accident to file a personal injury lawsuit to seek financial compensation for all that they have been through. While each case is different, compensation packages may include amounts for past medical bills, future medical expenses, lost wages due to time away from work, and any pain and suffering that the accident victim endured as a result of the accident.

Unfortunately, however, the process of filing a personal injury claim can be a lengthy one as well. Thus, it is very important that an accident victim do everything possible to ensure a smooth process to reduce the risk of additional delays. A recent case illustrates how one plaintiff’s failure to name the correct defendant ended up delaying the case for months, possibly years.

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Earlier this month, a jury awarded a Georgia doctor $7 million in a premises liability lawsuit brought against the hospital where the doctor sustained a career-ending head injury after falling to the ground after slipping off a rolling stool. According to one local news report covering the case, the doctor alleged that the hospital provided an unsafe rolling stool in the operating room where the fall occurred.

Operating RoomThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a doctor who had performed thousands of surgeries at the defendant hospital. On the day of the accident, the plaintiff had just finished with a surgery and sat down to complete the post-op paperwork. However, as he sat on the rolling stool provided by the hospital, the stool shot out from under him, causing him to fall to the floor.

The doctor hit his head on the floor but initially seemed fine. It was not until hours later that he started to become nauseous and then started experiencing double vision. Later, he began to have seizures. He was hospitalized for several days and eventually tried to return to work. However, since he was routinely suffering from seizures, he had to close down his practice. The doctor was later diagnosed with trauma-induced epilepsy and continues to suffer from cognitive and memory problems, migraine headaches, and seizures.

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Earlier this month, a federal court of appeals issued a written opinion in a premises liability case brought by a woman who was seriously injured when a glass shower door at the defendant’s hotel shattered, covering her naked body in shards of glass. In the case, the court reversed a lower court’s decision that denied the plaintiff the opportunity to seek punitive damages from the hotel chain. The court held that the issues that needed to be resolved in order to determine whether punitive damages were appropriate should have been determined by the jury, rather than the trial judge.

Shower HeadThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff and her sister were staying at one of the defendant’s hotels. The plaintiff was exiting the shower when the glass shower door exploded, causing her serious injuries. After the accident, a hotel employee came to the room and told the sisters that several rooms had this problem, and it was caused by the shower door coming off its runners. The employee explained that the room was on a “do not sell” list, and the sister should check and see if her shower door had the same problem. The sister checked, and indeed, her shower door was also off its runner.

The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the hotel chain, seeking compensatory and punitive damages. Evidence was presented showing that the hotel knew about the problems with the doors, and had at one point taken the rooms off the list of available rooms. However, for an unknown reason the sisters’ hotel rooms ended up back on the available room list. There was also evidence presented that the door in the plaintiff’s room had previously shattered and been replaced.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a wrongful death case brought by the parents of a boy who died while in the defendant teacher’s classroom. In the case, Barnett v. Atlanta Independent School System, the court held that a teacher’s decision on how to supervise and control students is a discretionary action that is entitled to government immunity. As a result of the ruling, the boy’s parents will not be able to seek compensation for the loss of their son.

ClassroomA Student Falls While the Teacher Is Out of the Classroom

Antoine Williams was a seventh-grade student in the defendant’s American Literature class. One afternoon, Williams’ teacher stepped out of the room for a period of about 30 minutes. Before she left, she asked a neighboring teacher to “listen in” on her class to make sure the students were okay. During that time, Williams and another boy were horse-playing when Williams fell to the ground, fracturing his collarbone. When Williams’ teacher returned, Williams was lying on the ground unconscious. The teacher called 911, and Williams was taken to the hospital. Sadly, Williams died from a loss of blood caused by the fractured collarbone.

The school’s principal called the teacher into his office to discuss what had occurred. During the initial discussion, the teacher lied, claiming that she was in the classroom at the time of Williams’ fall. The principal determined this was not the case and confronted the teacher about her misrepresentation. She then offered a series of other reasons as to why she was not present. During a pre-trial deposition, the teacher changed her story yet again, this time claiming that she was using the restroom. It was verified, however, that she did ask the neighboring teacher to listen in on her class.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a premises liability case brought by a woman whom had slipped and fallen on some icy steps outside a restaurant. In the case, Lowrey v. LMPS & LMPJ, the court took the opportunity to clarify each party’s burden when a defendant seeks summary judgment in a premises liability case. Ultimately, finding that the plaintiff presented insufficient evidence of her claim, the court determined that the defendant was entitled to summary judgment.

Slick StepsThe Facts of the Case

Lowrey was leaving Woody’s Diner, an establishment owned and operated by the defendant, when she slipped and fell on a set of icy stairs. Lowrey filed a premises liability case against the owners of the restaurant, claiming that they knew or should have known about the icy steps but failed to do anything to remedy the danger or warn patrons of the slippery condition.

Before trial, the defendant asked the court to dismiss the case against it, arguing that Lowrey did not provide any evidence suggesting that the defendant knew the dangerous condition existed. The trial judge agreed and dismissed the case.

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Earlier this month, the highest court in Illinois issued a written opinion in a premises liability case requiring the court to interpret a statute that on its face grants immunity to property owners who are negligent in the removal of snow or ice on their land. In the case, Murphy-Hylton v. Lieberman Management Services, the court determined that the defendant apartment complex was not entitled to immunity because the plaintiffs did not allege negligence in the removal of the condition but instead negligence in otherwise maintaining the property.

Snowy PathThe nuance in the court’s opinion is instructive to would-be personal injury plaintiffs in Maryland because the opinion shows how closely courts scrutinize legal arguments and how a dedicated advocate can greatly increase a plaintiff’s chance of success.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff lived in an apartment complex owned by the defendants in Carol Stream, Illinois. In February, 2011, a snow storm dropped over 20 inches of snow in Carol Stream. The defendant arranged for the snow and ice to be cleared from the premises, but 11 days after the storm, the plaintiff slipped and fell on a patch of ice behind her building on her way to the parking lot.

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Earlier this month, an elderly woman recovered just over $1.3 million after a jury found in her favor in a premises liability case involving a large grocery store chain. According to one industry news source reporting on the case, the accident took place back in 2012, when another customer inadvertently struck the woman with an electric grocery cart.

Grocery StoreEvidently, the elderly plaintiff was shopping at a Giant Eagle grocery store when she was hit by another patron in an electric cart, after the patron had lost control of the cart. The collision tossed the woman nearly four feet into a nearby shelf. The force of the collision seriously injured the woman’s back and neck. She filed a premises liability lawsuit against the grocery store chain.

During the trial, the woman’s attorney submitted evidence to the jury of 119 other accidents occurring at Giant Eagle stores across the country. This enabled the attorney to argue not only that the grocery store was negligent in failing to provide adequate instructions to the customers using the carts but also that it had prior knowledge of the potential dangers involved in allowing uninformed customers to use the carts.

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