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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Last month, the Supreme Court of the State of Wyoming issued a decision in a premises liability case stemming from a 2014 accident. According to the court’s opinion, a student and his friends left a middle school P.E. class and had to travel between buildings to get to their next class. The students noticed a patch of ice and began playing on it. The student bringing the lawsuit slid on the ice and fell, breaking a tooth, fracturing his nose, and lacerating his face.

Feet on the SnowAfter investigating the area, it became clear that the icy spot was not hidden, and it was not readily apparent that anyone had done anything to made the ice more slippery or dangerous. The school explained that it is their practice to remove snow and apply ice melt every day when ice or snow is present. Nothing indicated that they did not follow this practice on the day in question.

The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the school and found that there was no duty because the accumulation of the ice was obvious and natural. The student then appealed the lower court’s ruling, and the appellate court affirmed the lower court’s judgment. That court stated that the plaintiff could not establish a prima facie case of negligence. It found that the student clearly knew that the area was dangerous. Furthermore, the court found that the school district did not violate the duty it owed to the student by applying an ice melting agent to the ice. The court explained that while the application of the ice melting agent may have changed the natural state of the ice, it was not proven that the school increased the likelihood of harm by applying the agent.

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Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion discussing the negligent entrustment theory of liability. The plaintiff in the case was a man who was injured when a drunk driver struck him while he was driving. The relevant claim was against the driver’s employer, which had allowed the driver to use a company vehicle. The court ultimately determined that the plaintiff’s case should be permitted to move ahead toward trial because there was sufficient evidence to put the employer on notice as to the driver’s history of DUI convictions.

Broom and MopsThe Facts of the Case

As mentioned above, the plaintiff was struck by a drunk driver. That driver had arranged to borrow a vehicle from his employer. The employer allowed the driver to borrow the vehicle, despite the fact that it was clearly prohibited by company policy. While the employee was borrowing the vehicle, he had a few drinks and was involved in a DUI accident with the plaintiff.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the driver’s employer, arguing that the employer was negligent in allowing the defendant to use a company vehicle. In support of his claim, the plaintiff pointed to several drunk driving convictions that the employee had incurred prior to being hired. In its defense, the employer explained that the employee only told the employer about one of the DUI convictions in the interview. The employer ran a background check that went back three years, and nothing came back.

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Drunk driving has long been a major problem on New Mexico roads. Despite the strict criminal sanctions that drunk drivers face, the fact remains that New Mexico is among the states with the highest death rate due to drunk driving. In hopes of curtailing the drunk-driving epidemic, one New Mexico lawmaker has proposed a bill that would act to completely prevent repeat DUI offenders from purchasing alcohol.

Beer MugAccording to a local news source discussing the recently proposed bill, a second-time DUI offender would be prohibited from purchasing alcohol. Specifically, the bill states that “an offender shall forfeit the privilege to purchase, possess or consume intoxicating liquor in the state for one year.” Those who continued to re-offend may face lifetime alcohol restrictions under the newly proposed bill.

If the bill is passed into law, all second-time and subsequent DUI offenders will be provided driver’s licenses that are visually distinct from regular adult driver’s licenses and resemble licenses for those under the legal drinking age of 21. The impetus for the bill is the lack of DUI enforcement on New Mexico roads. The article claims that New Mexico has one of the lowest arrest rates for drunk drivers, despite having one of the highest rates of drunk driving per capita.

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All property owners, including businesses and governments, have a duty to make sure that their premises are kept reasonably safe. The level of duty that an individual, government, or business has to a person entering their land depends on the relationship between the parties. Generally speaking, there are three categories that a relationship can fall into:  trespasser, licensee, and invitee.

Operating RoomFor the most part, trespassers are those who are not invited onto the owner’s land, licensees are social guests, and anyone invited onto an owner’s property to conduct business is an invitee. A property owner owes an invitee the highest duty of care. In a recent case, a doctor recovered a significant damages award after sustaining a career-ending injury at the defendant hospital where he was performing a surgery.

A Doctor Slips and Falls in the Operating Room

The plaintiff in the case was a doctor who routinely performed surgeries at the defendant hospital. After surgery one day, the doctor went to sit down on a stool to complete some post-operation paperwork. However, as the doctor placed his weight on the stool, it slipped out from under him, causing him to fall to the ground.

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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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