Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a motorcycle accident case, discussing the element of causation and the doctrine of intervening cause. Ultimately, the court determined that a third party’s actions acted as an intervening cause, severing the chain of causation set in motion by the defendant’s original allegedly negligent act. Thus, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case, finding that he was unable to meet a required element.

MotorcycleThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was riding his motorcycle when he rounded a corner and saw a motor home stopped in his lane of traffic. Unable to safely stop in time to avoid the motor home, the plaintiff was injured when he lost control and skidded out.

As it turns out, the motor home was waiting in a traffic jam that had formed in the wake of another accident that had occurred about 90 minutes before. That accident was caused when an allegedly drunk motorcyclist entered into the turn too quickly, lost control of the bike, and drove off the road. That motorcyclist was pronounced dead on the scene. Highway patrol had responded and was in the process of clearing the scene when the plaintiff’s accident occurred.

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Last month, a state supreme court dismissed a summary judgment order granted by a lower court in a slip-and-fall case. The case stemmed from a 2013 accident in which a fast food patron was exiting the restaurant’s bathroom and fell, catching himself with his left hand. The patron immediately pushed himself up and was in a dazed and confused state. He later left the restaurant without ordering.

Fast FoodThe patron filed a lawsuit against the fast food restaurant, alleging that he sustained injuries due to their negligence in maintaining the premises. The defendant submitted video footage showing the patron slipping but not falling near the counter where customers order their food. The plaintiff explained that he did indeed slip near the counter, but he also fell just moments before that near the bathroom. After leaving the restaurant, the plaintiff began to experience severe pain. He returned to the restaurant and spoke to the manager, who he claimed acknowledged that she witnessed him fall.

The defendant countered by filing a motion for summary judgment. The restaurant argued that the video footage proved that the patron did not slip and fall in the restaurant. The restaurant claimed that, even if the patron did fall, the danger of a wet floor was open and obvious. The circuit court denied all of the motions brought by the patron and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant.

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Recently, a state supreme court released an opinion in a lawsuit brought by two officers who were injured while they were in the process of helping an individual who had fallen asleep behind the wheel of a car. According to the court’s opinion, the two officers received a call about a traffic accident and were dispatched to the scene. The officers were speeding to the scene of the accident when the officer operating the police vehicle did not see a disabled pickup truck in the middle of the southbound lane. The police officers crashed into the disabled vehicle, resulting in serious injuries.

FiremenIt was later discovered that the individual in the disabled vehicle had a blood alcohol content of .103. Both officers applied for and received worker’s compensation benefits for the injuries they sustained as a result of the accident. The officers subsequently filed a negligence lawsuit against the pickup truck driver, claiming that the driver’s negligence caused them to suffer injuries and damages. The pickup truck driver claimed that the officers were partially at fault in causing the accident. He also argued that the firefighter’s rule barred all of the claims.

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When an individual is injured in a car accident, many people are under the impression that only the culpable driver may be sued, but that is not necessarily the case. Owners of vehicles should be aware that they may be a party to a lawsuit even if they were not the ones driving the car. In these situations, the car owner is vicariously liable for the acts of the individual driving their vehicle. Although the term “owner” seems clear, there are situations in which an owner may be the person who is holding themselves out as an owner because they care for or are in possession of the car. Basically, similar to many things in the law, “owner” is not necessarily a straightforward concept.

Desert HighwayThere are situations in which an owner may be liable when they do not actually cause the accident. Some of these instances include when an employer permits an employee to use a car for work or business purposes, or when an owner knows that the driver to whom they are lending the car is unlicensed, reckless, or incompetent, or finally if the owner knows that the vehicle is malfunctioning or defective but allows someone else to operate it. In the case that the owner lends the car to an unlicensed individual, the plaintiff must be able to establish that the owner knew that the individual was unlicensed, and they gave express permission to use their vehicle. In these cases, the plaintiff will likely be able to bring a lawsuit against the actual car owner.

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In a recent case, a Georgia court of appeals determined a defendant should be able to reopen a default judgment that was entered on behalf of the plaintiff because the plaintiff named the wrong party. The court ultimately held that, due to the plaintiff’s failure to name and serve the proper party at the outset, it was reasonable that the defendant failed to answer the complaint.

GavelAccording to the court’s opinion, a man fell at a Mexican restaurant in Marietta and died a few days later. A few weeks after the man’s death, his attorney sent a letter to the restaurant; however, it was sent to the wrong address. The letter was still delivered to the restaurant, and someone signed for the letter, but no one responded to the letter.

The man’s wife then filed a claim against the restaurant, again listing the incorrect address on the complaint. The restaurant’s owner was served with a summons and complaint, which named the incorrect restaurant as a defendant. However, the restaurant’s owner, who did own the restaurant at which the man died, was not associated with the restaurant that had been named in the complaint. Accordingly, the restaurant owner’s attorney responded, explaining that he was not associated with the named restaurant. The attorney for the restaurant where the accident occurred did not respond, since that restaurant was not named as a defendant.

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Recently, the Court of Appeals of Georgia reversed a lower court’s decision that had granted summary judgment to a grocery store in a slip-and-fall case. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was shopping in the grocery store when she slipped in a puddle of liquid that was dripping from a package of meat. The plaintiff subsequently filed a personal injury lawsuit against the grocery store, alleging that they failed to maintain the premises, and that failure resulted in her injury.

Wet FloorThe grocery store moved for summary judgment, arguing that it did not have any actual knowledge of the hazardous condition. The store provided an inspection sheet that showed that the area was inspected about 40 minutes prior to the fall. Furthermore, the store provided the security tape, which showed the plaintiff walking around the area two times before falling. In its motion for summary judgment, the store argued that it appropriately inspected the area, and the plaintiff actually had better knowledge of the spill because she walked by it several times.

The trial court granted summary judgment in the grocery store’s favor. The plaintiff appealed and solely argued that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment because the defendant did not establish that it carried out a “reasonable” inspection on the day the fall occurred. The appellate court held that in order to overcome a summary judgment motion, a plaintiff must clearly show that the grocery store had constructive knowledge, which can be inferred from a lack of appropriate or reasonable inspection procedures. The court also explained that although there is no bright-line rule, grocery stores should have more frequent inspections. Ultimately, the court found that these sorts of cases turn on whether the store’s inspection procedure was reasonable, and this determination should be made by a jury. Thus, summary judgement was not appropriate.

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Earlier last month, one state’s supreme court issued a written opinion in a slip-and-fall case that required the court to determine whether the lower court properly applied the state’s recreational use statute. The case also presented the court with the opportunity to discuss one of the foundational rules of appellate procedure. Specifically, the court grounded its opinion in the rule stating that when a plaintiff’s evidence is presented for the first time on appeal, it cannot be considered because it was not presented at trial.

Home PlateThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the mother of a young boy who was injured while he was playing baseball in a park owned and operated by the defendant city. Evidently, the boy’s lower leg slid under home plate as he attempted to slide home. When he stood up after coming to a stop, he broke his leg in two places. The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the city, claiming that the bases were not properly maintained and were a danger to those using the baseball diamond.

In a pre-trial motion for summary judgment, the city argued that it was immune from liability under the recreational use statute. Specifically, the city claimed that it allowed all citizens to use the park for no cost, and under the statute, it could not be held liable. The plaintiff objected to the application of the statute but offered no basis for the objection. Ultimately, the trial court granted the city’s motion and dismissed the case, finding that the city was immune under the recreational use statute.

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A Florida appellate court recently released an opinion in a case involving the potential wrongful death of a nursing home resident. The deceased individual was admitted to the nursing home in April 2013. On the day after her admittance, the woman’s daughter signed and accepted the position of “health care proxy” on behalf of her mother. Although this proxy was signed, the plaintiff’s mother never executed a durable power of attorney in her daughter’s favor.

ContractWithin the first week of the resident’s admittance, her daughter signed a voluntary arbitration agreement. This agreement outlined what a legal representative was, and the daughter signed in the space designated for a legal representative’s signature. Importantly, the agreement stated that the nursing home could not require a person to sign the agreement unless the person had legal access or physical control of the resident’s income and resources.

Unfortunately, at some point after her admission, the resident sustained injuries that resulted in her death. The plaintiff, the resident’s estate, then filed a lawsuit against the nursing home. The nursing home responded by filing a motion to dismiss, attempting to compel arbitration. The trial court found the arbitration agreement was valid and granted the defendant’s motions.

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The Supreme Court in the State of Rhode Island recently released an opinion in a lawsuit stemming from a two-vehicle crash that injured a school crossing guard. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was standing at her post as a crossing guard when a car that had run a red light slammed into a pickup truck in the intersection. After being hit, the pickup swerved and careened out of control, eventually striking the plaintiff, causing her to be slammed into a wall. The plaintiff ended up suffering serious injuries.

Body DamageAs a result of her injuries, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against both of the drivers, claiming that they were negligent. The pickup truck driver moved for summary judgment, arguing that the case against him should be dismissed because there was no evidence to indicate that he’d acted negligently on that day – as opposed to the driver of the other car, who’d run a red light. The lower court agreed with the defendant and found that the plaintiff’s assertion that the pickup truck driver was negligent was not supported by anything in the record. The plaintiff then appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of Rhode Island.

The Supreme Court held that just by getting behind the wheel and driving his car on a public road, the pickup truck driver owed a duty of care to others on the road. Further, because he entered the intersection while the light was green does not necessarily mean that his duty of care was fulfilled. As such, the Court held that summary judgment was inappropriately granted because there were genuine issues of material facts that needed to be resolved by the jury.

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Every state has a law that details the repercussions for drivers who leave the scene of an accident without rendering assistance to others involved in it. Broadly speaking, an accident is characterized as a hit-and-run if a driver is involved in an accident with an object, another driver, or pedestrian and leaves the scene without rendering assistance or providing their identifying information. Interestingly, unlike many other statutes of this nature, there is no requirement of fault, meaning that even if a driver is not at fault for the accident, they can still be in violation of the law if they leave the scene.

Desert HighwayThere is a great range of criminal penalties for those who leave the scene of an accident. These penalties range from fines to incarceration. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, the violation may be considered a misdemeanor or a felony. Additionally, the fleeing party may be civilly liable those who were injured by the driver’s decision to flee the scene. In many cases, allegations involve injuries that were worsened by the fact that the injured party did not receive timely medical attention.

Under New Mexico’s law, a driver should not leave the scene of the accident except if it is temporarily to get emergency assistance. It is crucial that anyone involved in an accident provide their identifying information, render a reasonable amount of assistance, and contact emergency personnel. Drivers must exchange information, including their name, address, contact information, driver’s license number, and insurance details. The failure to do this may result in liability.

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