Articles Posted in Slip & Fall

The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently issued an opinion regarding a personal injury lawsuit brought against a popular coffee chain. The opinion is important for New Mexico accident victims to understand because it shows how the same standard can have different exceptions and ultimately different outcomes, depending on the jurisdiction where the case arises.

Coffee ShopThe Facts of the Case

In 2013, two parents and their two young sons were visiting a popular newly opened coffee shop in Chicago. Apparently, the coffee chain used stanchions that were connected by heavy chains welded to the base to encourage line formation. The base was not affixed to the floor; the reason for this was not made clear. However, the risk of the stanchion falling was noted, since an employee suffered a bruise to her leg when the stanchion previously fell.

On the day of the accident, the two young boys were playing on the ropes when the parents went to the second floor to use the restroom. When the parents came down, they heard one of their sons screaming. The parents immediately rushed the boy to a local hospital. The boy was transferred to a children’s hospital in the hopes that his crushed finger could be saved, but unfortunately it had to be amputated.

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Recently, a court issued an opinion in a recreational use injury case that may be applicable in New Mexico personal injury cases. In that case, the Supreme Court of Georgia ruled that summary judgment should be granted to a city-owned stadium after a six-year-old girl was injured after falling through the bleachers.

StadiumFacts of the Case

In 2012, two parents were attending a youth football game with their six-year-old daughter. The parents purchased two tickets for themselves, but the young girl was able to attend for free because children under the age of six were not required to pay an admission fee.

When the girl was walking to the concession stands, she slipped and fell through the bleachers and sustained serious injuries. The family brought a personal injury lawsuit against the city, but the city moved for summary judgment. The city argued that the state’s recreational use statute protected it from liability because the injured party did not pay a fee to attend. At trial, the family argued that the exception should not be applied because the parents were charged an admission fee. The lower court agreed, denying the city’s motion for summary judgment. The city appealed.

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Recently, a state court issued an opinion in a personal injury lawsuit filed by a tenant against her landlord, stemming from an incident in which the plaintiff was injured on the landlord’s property. The case presents an important issue that often arises in New Mexico premises liability cases. Specifically, it addressed what must be shown by a tenant to recover damages for injuries sustained on a property rented from a defendant landlord.

Wooden StepsThe Facts of the Case

In 2012, the plaintiff fell on the steps of a property she was leasing from the defendant landlord and suffered a torn ligament as a result. The plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against the defendant landlord, asserting that the landlord was negligent in failing to maintain the property and notify the tenant of the defect in the steps.

The landlord responded that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent and that her recovery should be barred or reduced due to her own actions having a role in causing her injuries. The plaintiff presented evidence showing that prior to the beginning of her lease, a housing code inspector notified the landlord that the step was a violation of local code, and they told the landlord that the home could not be leased until it was fixed.

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Earlier this month, a Mississippi appellate court issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit that should act as a warning to all New Mexico personal injury victims. The case involved a slip-and-fall case filed against three defendants, two of which the plaintiff excused through a pre-trial settlement agreement. However, the issue for the court to resolve was whether the plaintiff also unknowingly excused the third defendant as well. Ultimately, the court found that the third defendant was excused through the lawfully executed agreement between the plaintiff and one of the other parties.

SidewalkThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was walking on the sidewalk in front of an auto parts store when she tripped and fell after stepping in hole for a recessed utility box that was obscured due to fresh grass clippings that had covered the area. The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the auto parts store, the city where the accident occurred, as well as the utility commission responsible for the placement and maintenance of the utility box.

During pre-trial negotiations, the plaintiff entered two separate settlement agreements with the auto parts store and the city. The agreement with the city contained a clause whereby the plaintiff agreed to discharge the case against the city and any “successors, agents, attorneys, insurers, subsidiaries, sister or parent companies, assigns, employees, representatives, stockholders, [etc.]”

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Connecticut issued a written opinion that will be of interest to victims of New Mexico slip-and-fall accidents because it illustrates the type of evidence necessary to establish liability in these types of cases. In this case, the plaintiff’s case was tried before a judge without a jury. After hearing the evidence on both sides, the judge entered a verdict in the plaintiff’s favor for approximately $108,000. The defendant appealed the lower court’s ruling to a higher court.

SidewalkThe Plaintiff Stubs Her Toe on a Hospital Sidewalk

The plaintiff was at the defendant hospital visiting a loved one when she stubbed her toe and fell while walking on the sidewalk immediately outside the hospital. In her deposition testimony, the plaintiff explained that she did not know what caused her to trip at the time, only that the front of her toe slammed into something on the ground and that she subsequently fell. As a result of her fall, the plaintiff sustained a broken toe and other injuries.

The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the defendant hospital, claiming that the hospital was negligent in maintaining the walkway. The plaintiff presented two reports from witnesses, explaining that there was a small but visible divot in the pavement in the immediate area where she fell.

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After a judge or jury enters a verdict in a New Mexico personal injury case, that verdict is final unless one of the parties files an appeal to a higher court. If an appeal is filed, the appellate court may only consider alleged legal errors. This means that an appellate court will not revisit factual findings of the judge or jury below, but it may consider issues related to the admission of evidence or other legal rulings made during the course of the trial.

Diving BoardAppellate courts will also only consider arguments that were made during the trial. For example, if a party fails to object to a ruling with which they disagree, that party will be prevented from raising the issue on appeal in most cases. In a recent case, the plaintiff’s premises liability claim was dismissed on appeal because the arguments he made on appeal were not raised below.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was an investor looking to purchase a rental home. He contacted the defendant real estate agent and arranged to see one of the agent’s listings. The agent met the plaintiff at the home and showed the plaintiff around. The home had a pool in the back yard that had been emptied prior to the property being put up for sale.

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New Mexico is a beautiful state with huge amounts of open land that can be used for recreational purposes, whether it be hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, or hunting. To encourage landowners, including local governments, to open up their land to the public, New Mexico lawmakers have passed a recreational-use statute that provides immunity from liability for some accidents that occur on a party’s land.

FireworksNot all landowners are immune from liability, however. After an accident occurs, the burden is on the landowner to prove that they are entitled to recreational-use immunity. In order to qualify, the landowner must establish that they did not receive any compensation from the person who was injured on their land. Even then, there are several exceptions that apply. A recent case illustrates how another state court handled a slip-and-fall plaintiff’s claim against a city for an injury that occurred in a public park.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff planned on watching the 4th of July firework display at a park that was owned and operated by the defendant city. The plaintiff arrived at the park in the morning, and upon exiting her car, she made her way past a set of vertical poles used to establish the bounds of the parking area. The plaintiff later explained that she didn’t pay much attention to the poles as she walked by them, and even if she had looked at them, they would not have caught her attention.

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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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