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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving a student who died while the teacher was out of the room. The case required the court to determine if the teacher – acting as an official government employee – was entitled to immunity. Finding that the school’s policy regarding the supervision of students left room for the exercise of discretion, the court determined that the teacher was entitled to immunity and dismissed the plaintiffs’ appeal.

ClassroomThe case is important for Washington, D.C. personal injury plaintiffs because it illustrates the type of analysis in which courts engage when reviewing cases filed against a government official, employee, or agency.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the parents of a young boy who died while attending school. According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the boy fell to the ground while roughhousing with another student. At the time, the teacher had stepped out of the classroom and was not present. However, she asked a teacher in a neighboring room to keep an eye on the students before she stepped out.

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In some Washington, D.C. personal injury cases, there may be a lack of evidence regarding the cause of the accident victim’s injuries. However, in some of these cases, the fact that the accident occurred at all may give rise to an inference that the defendant was in fact negligent. This doctrine is known as res ipsa loquitur, which is Latin for “the thing speaks for itself.”

Trailer HitchThe classic example of a res ipsa loquitur case is when a patient finds out there is a medical instrument in their body after undergoing a surgery. In this situation, the patient would have no way of knowing who left the instrument in their body, but the fact that the instrument was present in their body – which would never be there absent some explanation – may be evidence that the doctor was negligent.

In Washington, D.C., there are three elements that must be met in order for a judge to give the jury a res ipsa loquitur instruction. First, the event must be one that does not normally occur in the absence of someone’s negligence. Second, the accident must have involved an instrumentality within the sole control of the defendant. Finally, the plaintiff’s injuries must not have been a result of their own conduct. A recent case illustrates how the court applies a res ipsa loquitur analysis.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving a plaintiff who was seriously injured when she was struck by a golf cart while walking on a pathway in a 55+ community. Although the case was filed in a Florida court, it presents a common issue that arises in Washington, D.C. personal injury cases when an insurance company rejects an accident victim’s claim. Ultimately, the court concluded that the insurance contract should be interpreted to cover the plaintiff’s claim.

Golf CartsThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was walking in the 55+ community where she lived when she was struck by a golf cart. The plaintiff sustained serious injuries as a result of the collision and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver of the golf cart.

Unfortunately, as is too often the case, the at-fault driver did not carry sufficient insurance to cover the cost of the plaintiff’s injuries. However, the plaintiff carried an insurance policy of her own, which contained coverage for accidents involving underinsured motorist protection. Thus, the plaintiff filed a claim with her own insurance company, hoping to obtain the difference between the total costs she incurred and the amount she was provided by the at-fault driver’s insurance policy.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a slip-and-fall case discussing what has come to be known as the “continuing storm doctrine.” The case is important for Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall accident victims because the principle behind the continuing storm doctrine has been codified into Maryland law under DC Code § 9-601.

Gas PumpThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a shuttle driver for an assisted living facility. One day, while he was driving the shuttle, he stopped to get gas at the defendant gas station. At the time, it was lightly raining, and the temperature was fluctuating around freezing.

As the plaintiff exited the shuttle, he slipped on a thin layer of ice that had formed on the pavement. The plaintiff sustained serious injuries as a result of the fall and filed a premises liability lawsuit against the gas station. The plaintiff claimed that the gas station was negligent for failing to clear the ice hazard in the gas station parking area.

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case illustrating the importance of expert selection in Washington, D.C. product liability cases. The case required the court to determine if the testimony of the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses was based on sufficiently reliable methodology. Ultimately, the court concluded that the testimony of both witnesses was properly excluded by the trial court.

LaptopThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the parents of a college student who died in a fire that started in the boy’s room. Investigators found the boy’s laptop among the debris. The plaintiffs presented two expert witnesses to testify that, in their opinion, the fire was started when the battery in the laptop malfunctioned.

The first expert had a PhD in inorganic chemistry and was an expert in battery safety. He testified that upon inspecting the batteries in the laptop, one of the three cells had ruptured. He further explained that a battery cell can only rupture in certain circumstances, including electrically abusive condition,s mechanically abusive conditions, high temperatures (such as a fire), or an internal problem with the battery.

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Last month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case illustrating the court’s power to dismiss a case when it determines that a plaintiff has not been truthful in her filings or testimony. The message in the opinion is an important one for Washington, D.C. personal injury plaintiffs to understand because it shows the severity of the sanctions that can be imposed for failing to be ethical.

Luggage on CarThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was planning on taking a cruise and arranged to have the defendant transportation company give her a ride to the port. The shuttle arrived at the plaintiff’s home and took her to the port without issue. However, when the plaintiff was unloading her luggage from the trunk of the shuttle, the shuttle inexplicably reversed, running over the plaintiff.

It was undisputed that the plaintiff suffered a serious injury as a result of being run over by the shuttle. Indeed, she spent 10 days in the hospital recovering from her injuries, which included a fractured femur, and needed continuing physical therapy. Three months after the accident, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the transportation company.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Utah issued a written opinion in a product liability lawsuit discussing the liability of a retailer that had nothing to do with the design or manufacture of a reclining chair that crushed the plaintiff’s foot. The court held that, although a previous legal doctrine shielded passive retailers from liability in these circumstances, that doctrine was now outdated and no longer applicable.

CouchThe case is instructive to Washington, D.C. residents who have recently been injured due to a dangerous or defective product and may be considering a Washington, D.C. product liability lawsuit.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff purchased a reclining chair from the defendant furniture store. The chair purchased by the plaintiff came with a foot-massage feature. While the plaintiff was using the feature, the chair crushed his left foot. The plaintiff filed a product liability claim against both the manufacturer of the chair as well as the defendant furniture retailer. This appeal deals only with the furniture retailer.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Mississippi issued an opinion in a personal injury case involving a slip-and-fall accident that occurred at a fast-food restaurant. As is often the case in Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall accidents, this case required the court to determine if the evidence presented by the plaintiff was sufficient to survive a summary judgment challenge by the defendant restaurant.

HamburgerUltimately, the court concluded that the evidence gave rise to several factual issues that, if resolved in the plaintiff’s favor, could result in the restaurant being liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. Thus, the case was permitted to proceed toward trial or settlement negotiations.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was dining at the defendant fast-food restaurant with several family members. After he placed his order, the plaintiff began to walk back toward his table. On the way, the plaintiff thought he heard an employee call his name, and he turned around. As he did so, he tripped on the leg of a highchair that was obscured by a “half wall.” Restaurant employees came to the plaintiff’s aid and noticed that his legs were tangled in the legs of the highchair.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving a slip-and-fall accident that took place outside a tire shop. The case is relevant to Washington, D.C. premises liability plaintiffs because it illustrates the type of analysis that courts will use when determining if a plaintiff has presented sufficient evidence to submit the case to a jury.

TiresIn this case, the court concluded that, while it was a “close question,” the plaintiff’s evidence was sufficient to raise a genuine issue of material fact, and thus summary judgment in favor of the defendant landowner was inappropriate.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff dropped a trailer off at the defendant tire shop to have the tires replaced. The plaintiff and her brother walked into the store through the side entrance, arranged to have the repairs completed, and left the same way they had entered.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued an opinion in a wrongful death case that illustrates an important issue that often arises in Washington, D.C. personal injury cases. Specifically, the case discussed the doctrine of “assumption of the risk” and how it can prevent a plaintiff from recovering compensation for their injuries.

TractorThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the surviving loved one of a farm worker who died after a tractor tire fell on top of him as he was attempting to remove the tire on his own. Prior to the accident that claimed the worker’s life, he was asked to remove the tire by his employer, the farmer. The farmer specifically told the worker, however, not to remove the tire on his own.

After the accident, the worker’s family filed a wrongful death case against the farmer, claiming that the farmer did not provide the worker with the proper tools and created an unreasonably dangerous situation. The farmer argued that the worker assumed the risks involved in changing the tire by proceeding to do it by himself. The court agreed, dismissing the plaintiff’s case.

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