Articles Posted in Relevant Personal Injury Case Law

In a recent case, one court considered whether a city could be held liable after a child was hit by a stray golf ball while he was on city-owned property. The golf course was owned by the city and managed by a private company. Next to the golf course, there were recreational areas, including a pedestrian walkway. The young plaintiff was struck in the head by a golf ball as his mother was pushing him in a stroller on the walkway.

GolferThe boy and the mother filed a claim against the city, alleging that the city failed to protect against a dangerous condition on public property by having a golf course next to a public walking area. According to the complaint, the boy was brought to the hospital and diagnosed with a brain injury. He allegedly suffered from cognitive delays, eye injuries, urinary dysfunction, significant pain, and emotional distress. The plaintiffs alleged that the city failed to protect against the known risk of golf balls hitting people outside the golf course by failing to put up adequate fences or other barriers and failing to adequately warn people of the risk.

The city filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming it had immunity under the state’s laws. The trial court agreed and granted the city’s motion, finding it was entitled to immunity under a state statute. The law stated that a public entity is generally liable for an injury caused by a dangerous condition on its property; however, a public entity is not liable for an injury caused by the condition of a trail used for access to recreational areas that is not a public street or highway.

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Recently, a state supreme court released answers to the certified questions posed by a lower federal court in a car accident case. The question involved the applicability of a comparative negligence defense in a crashworthiness case brought by a man who was injured in a car accident.

Pickup TruckThe case stems from a 2012 accident in which an individual and his friend were driving in a 1987 Chevy pickup truck, owned by the friend. Evidence showed that the driver was under the influence of marijuana when he came to an intersection and failed to stop, ultimately ending up directly in the path of a Ford truck. The truck driver was unable to stop in time and hit the plaintiff’s car, which caused the Chevy to burst into flames. The driver died, and his friend suffered severe injuries.

The passenger in the Chevy filed a crashworthiness lawsuit against the car manufacturer, arguing that the pickup’s design caused the explosion. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that a comparative negligence analysis should be applied, and the plaintiff should be barred from recovery because the driver was impaired when the accident occurred.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in California issued a written opinion in a personal injury case dealing with recreational use immunity as it applies to injuries occurring on government-owned land. Ultimately, the court determined that the defendant city was not entitled to immunity despite the fact that the plaintiff’s injuries occurred on government-owned land.

Golf SwingThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the mother of a child who was struck by an errant golf ball while in a stroller. At the time of the accident, the mother was walking her son along a path owned and maintained by the city. The path abutted a golf course. After the accident, the mother filed a personal injury lawsuit against both the golf course as well as the city. The plaintiff’s claim against the city was based on the fact that the city knew that the golf course presented a hazard to people using the path but failed to do anything to remedy that danger.

In a pre-trial motion for summary judgment, the city claimed that it was immune from liability based on the state’s trail immunity statute. Essentially, the trail immunity statute prevents a government entity from being held liable when a person is injured on a trail that was open to the public for general recreational purposes. In this case, the city argued that the walkway constituted a “trail” under the statute, and immunity should be granted.

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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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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 this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued an opinion in a premises liability case in which the court tweaked previous case law because of the unjust result that would have occurred had the law been applied as previously interpreted. In the recent case, the court determined that the general rule that where a plaintiff in a premises liability case must prove that the defendant had superior knowledge of the hazard when the plaintiff is presented with an “untenable choice”,  a relaxed interpretation may be appropriate.

Gas StationThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a fuel delivery driver who would occasionally make deliveries to the defendant’s gas station. The defendant required all fuel delivery drivers to manually measure the level in the tanks prior to filling them, as well as after they had been filled. The plaintiff had told the defendant that the post-fill measurement was unnecessary because the tank had a computerized system that displayed the current level of fuel. The plaintiff also expressed concern that manually measuring the tank was dangerous, because it had to be done in the middle of the station’s parking lot and customers often came close to hitting him.

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Late last month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion affirming a $40 million jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff in a wrongful death case against car-manufacturing giant Chrysler. In the case, the court rejected all of Chrysler’s alleged claims of error, finding that the lower court’s decisions were sound and that the jury’s award amount was not excessive.

Jeep The Facts of the Case

This tragic case involves a young boy who was killed when the car in which he was riding as a rear passenger was struck from behind by another motorist. In 2012, the young boy was with his aunt in her Jeep Grand Cherokee when a pick-up truck rear-ended them. The force from the collision caused the Jeep’s gas tank to rupture. Gas began to leak, and the vehicle caught fire. The boy’s aunt was able to escape the burning vehicle, but she was unable to rescue the young boy in the back seat.

The boy’s parents filed a wrongful death case against Chrysler, the manufacturer of the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The parents claimed that the placement of the gas tank was negligent, increasing the chance that it would rupture when the vehicle was struck from behind. Additionally, the parents claimed that Chrysler knew of the dangers associated with the gas tank’s location but continued to manufacture Jeep Grand Cherokees without making any design changes.

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The Supreme Court of Kentucky recently published an opinion in a slip-and-fall case that was appealed to the court by the plaintiff. According to the opinion, the accident occurred in 2011 when a guest and his wife were attending a convention at the defendant hotel. Evidently, the plaintiff slipped and injured himself when he was getting into a bathtub in his hotel room. According to the facts as determined by the appellate court, the bathtub did have a safety bar, but it did not have a bathmat. After his injury, the plaintiff notified the hotel of his injury, and employees subsequently provided him with a bathmat.

Bath FaucetThe guest filed a lawsuit against the hotel. The plaintiff’s premises liability claim asserted that he was an invitee of the hotel, the bathtub was slick and should be considered a dangerous condition, the hotel failed to exercise reasonable care in maintaining the bathtub, and his injuries were a result of the hotel’s negligence.

The hotel filed a motion to dismiss the case, and the lower court granted summary judgement, holding that the hotel did not assume the duty to provide bathmats to all of the rooms just because some of the rooms had them. The court also held that a hotel is not “an insurer of a guest’s safety.” The plaintiff appealed this decision all the way to the state supreme court. That court reversed the lower court’s decision and found that the hotel did have a duty to take reasonable steps to address and mitigate any dangerous conditions at their hotel. The question remains whether the hotel took adequate measures to protect the plaintiff, so the case was remanded back to the lower court for further analysis.

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Earlier this month, a federal court of appeals issued a written opinion in a workplace injury case involving claims made by an employee that the allegedly negligent party intentionally destroyed or lost evidence necessary to his case. In the case, Schaefer v. Universal Scaffolding, the court held that a party claiming an opposing party intentionally lost or destroyed evidence must show that they would have had a “reasonable probability” of success if the evidence had been preserved.

ScaffoldingIf a party can make this showing, the spoliating party (the party that lost or destroyed the evidence) may face a variety of sanctions, including an adverse inference instruction to the jury that the evidence, had it been presented, should be assumed to disfavor the spoliating party. Sanctions may also include judgment being entered against the spoliating party.

The Facts of the Case

Schaefer worked in the construction industry. As a part of his job, he would assemble scaffolding. One day, a piece of scaffolding manufactured by the defendant came loose and struck him on the head. He sustained serious injuries and filed a product liability lawsuit in addition to a claim for Workers’ Compensation.

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