State Court Vacates Jury Award and Dismisses Claim Against Park Resort

A court in West Virginia recently released its opinion in a negligence case stemming from a 2007 premises liability accident. According to the opinion, the accident occurred when a couple was attending a function at a park resort. While at the event, the husband leaned against a fence that proceeded to split, causing the husband to fall down a hill and hurt his shoulder.

Wood FenceThe plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the park and presented testimonial evidence from the park’s Director of Operations. The couple argued that the fence was installed sometime between the 1970s and 1990s and that the park could not produce documentation that the fence had ever been repaired or inspected. They further argued that the park was in the best position to ensure that the fence was in proper working order. The jury trial ended in a hefty verdict in favor of the plaintiff. However, the plaintiffs were not satisfied in that the jury did not return a verdict for pain and suffering. The plaintiffs then went on to file a motion for a new trial on the issue of pain and suffering.

The park appealed both of these issues and asked the court to dismiss the jury award and motion for a new trial. The Supreme Court ultimately found that the plaintiffs did not meet the evidentiary burden to bring a lawsuit of this nature. The court held that the plaintiffs failed to present a prima facie case of negligence in that they did not present any evidence of what the park should have done differently. Furthermore, they held that no witnesses testified as to how the park was negligent. The court ultimately dismissed the case in favor of the defendants.

Various Approaches to Proving a Premises Liability Lawsuit

There are various approaches when an individual brings a lawsuit against the owner or occupier of a property after they have been injured. Jurisdictions around the United States vary on how they approach these cases, but there are some unifying characteristics. In general, a person who owns or possesses land is required to ensure that their property is safe for those whom they invite onto their land. That landowner may be liable to a person who is injured on their land if the landowner knows or should have known that something on their property causes an unreasonable risk of harm. Finally, it must be established that the defendant did not protect against the danger and that an actual injury occurred.

Under the traditional approach, a plaintiff must establish that the dangerous condition existed, that the condition caused or added to their injury, and that the landowner failed to exercise due care. New Mexico follows a “mode of operation” and “recurring risk” hybrid approach. The mode of operation approach focuses on the landowner’s or business’ choice of a particular method of operation. The plaintiff must show that “a business can reasonably anticipate that hazardous conditions will regularly arise.” This means that the injury must be reasonably related to the business’ mode of operation. Additionally, they sometimes follow the recurring risk approach, which is in the middle between the traditional approach and the mode of operation approach. This asks whether the landowner or business used ordinary care to keep the premises safe from injuries that are likely to occur.

Have You Been Injured on Another’s Property in New Mexico?

If you or a loved one has been injured on another’s property due to their negligence, it is recommended that you contact a premises liability attorney at the Fine Law Firm to discuss your case. As you can see from the case above, there are circumstances in which, even after a jury award, the court will dismiss all judgments and find in favor of the defendant. An experienced and dedicated attorney can assist you in your case to lessen the chances that will happen. New Mexico premises liability law can be complicated, and an attorney at the Fine Law Firm can help pursue the monetary compensation you deserve. Contact an attorney at the Fine Law Firm today at 800-640-6590 to schedule a free initial consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Foreseeability as an Element of a New Mexico Negligence Claim, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, June 3, 2016.

State Court Holds Recreational Immunity Does Not Apply to Hot-Air Balloon Company Providing Free Rides on Another’s Property, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, May 4, 2016.