Anyone who has ever had a medical procedure or surgery performed has likely been confronted with a medical release waiver. These contracts are designed to limit – or altogether eliminate – a health care provider’s liability in the event something goes wrong during the procedure. While the intention of these contracts is to prevent a patient’s ability to proceed with a medical malpractice case, the reality is that courts often look upon these agreements with disfavor. A recent case out of Florida illustrates how one court struck down one such agreement on the basis that it was too vague.

Medical Release WaiverThe Facts of the Case

The defendant was a doctor who performed a spinal fusion surgery on the plaintiff. During the surgery, something went wrong, and the plaintiff’s ureter was severed. The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice case against the doctor, claiming that the doctor’s negligence resulted in his injuries.

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Earlier this month, a Maryland appellate court issued a written opinion in a medical malpractice case brought by the surviving loved ones of a man who died while in the care of the defendant doctor. The case required the court to determine if the lower court was proper to allow the defendant doctor to admit evidence that there had previously been other doctors named as defendants, but they all settled the case out of court prior to the case reaching trial. Ultimately, the court concluded that the lower court was proper to allow the evidence, and it affirmed the jury’s verdict in favor of the defendant doctor.

Hospital BedThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs filed a wrongful death by medical malpractice case against the defendant physician, claiming that he was negligent in the interpretation of X-ray images that eventually led to their loved one’s death. The case was filed against the defendant doctor as well as the three doctors who treated their loved one after the defendant. The cases against the three other doctors were all settled out of court.

At trial, the one remaining doctor wanted to explain to the jury that there had originally been four named defendants, but three of them had settled the cases against them. The defendant doctor also wanted to claim that these non-present parties were the ones who were ultimately responsible for the plaintiffs’ loss. The plaintiff filed a motion to prevent the defendant from discussing the non-present parties, but the trial court denied the plaintiffs’ motion and allowed the evidence. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant.

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Last month, a California appellate court issued an interesting opinion in a premises liability case that was brought against a city after a baby was struck by a golf ball while riding in a stroller on a nearby walking path. The court was tasked with determining whether the city was entitled to trail immunity, based on the fact that the injury occurred while the plaintiff was on a public walkway. Ultimately, the court determined that the city was not entitled to immunity because the hazard that caused the accident was not physically a part of the government-owned trail, nor was it sufficiently related to the trail.

Golf CourseGovernment Immunity

As a general rule, government entities cannot be named as defendants in personal injury lawsuits without the government entity’s consent. However, statutes passed by state legislatures across the country carve out large exceptions to this general rule. One of the biggest exceptions is when a dangerous condition of government-owned land causes an injury. However, under a related statute, when the injury occurs on an unpaved road that is used for recreational purposes, the government is entitled to immunity. In Maryland and Washington, D.C., this principle is known as recreational use immunity, and it may confer immunity on any landowner who opens his or her land to the public at no cost.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a young child who was struck by a golf ball as his mother was walking him along a government-owned path that abutted a golf course. A few years before, after someone was struck by an errant golf ball, the golf course installed a concrete wall separating the golf course from the path. There was also a chain-link fence atop the concrete fence.

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There is a lot to do in Washington, D.C. and the surrounding area. From historical sites to breweries and wineries to nature and boating activities, there are a number of exciting activities that await anyone willing to hop in the car and go for a quick drive. In many cases, tour companies are eager to take visitors on guided tours of these areas.

Boat's WakeWhile no one wants to think about getting injured while on a guided tour, the reality is that it does happen on occasion. When someone is injured on a guided tour, the tour guide, the tour company, and potentially several other parties may be legally responsible for the injuries to the guest, depending on the surrounding circumstances.

Of course, the mere fact that someone is injured while on a tour will not necessarily give rise to liability. However, if the surrounding circumstances suggest that the guide was somehow negligent, liability may be appropriate. Additionally, if a guide is aware of a danger but fails to warn tour-goers, there may also be a case for legal liability.

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Earlier this month, a Florida appellate court issued a written opinion in a premises liability case that was brought by a woman who slipped and fell while crossing the defendant’s property to get back to her home after returning from a dinner cruise. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff was an “uninvited licensee,” and the defendant landowner did not breach any duty it owed her.

Rocky PathThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff and a friend planned on taking a dinner cruise. The cruise embarked not far from where the plaintiff lived. On the way to the cruise, the plaintiff and her friend walked on public roads to get to the dock. However, on the way back, the two decided to take a shortcut through a shopping complex parking lot, across a grassy area, and then down a stone-paved path.

As the plaintiff was walking across the stone-paved path near some storm pumps, she stepped on a cracked paving stone and rolled her ankle. She then fell to the ground, resulting in further injuries. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the owners of the shopping complex.

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Last month, an appellate court in Alabama issued a written opinion in a premises liability case brought by a man who allegedly slipped and fell while approaching the counter at a fast food restaurant. The court reversed a lower court’s decision that had dismissed the plaintiff’s case, based on the fact that the hazardous condition on which the plaintiff slipped was open and obvious.

Banana PeelThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a customer at the defendant fast food restaurant. As the plaintiff entered the restaurant, he first went to the restroom to wash his hands. As he was exiting the restroom, he claims that he slipped and fell on an “oily” substance that was on the floor. After his fall, he got in line to order food. However, when he reached the front of the line, he was reportedly “delusional” and left without ordering. He later filed a premises liability lawsuit against the restaurant.

The restaurant asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit based on two grounds. First, the restaurant claimed that the plaintiff was not truthful. The restaurant presented videos showing a man who appeared to be the plaintiff slipping near the cash register but not falling. When confronted with this video, the plaintiff explained that the slip on the video was not the instance in which he fell but was another instance in which he just slipped.

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Last month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a car accident case that was brought by a police officer who was injured while responding to an emergency call. Ultimately, the court concluded that since the officer was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident, the “firefighter’s rule” prevented him from recovering compensation for his injuries.

Police SirensThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a police officer who was responding to the scene of an accident that had been called in while he was on duty. The call was for a single-vehicle accident that left a pick-up truck blocking the southbound lanes of the highway. The plaintiff was given the location of the accident and told that the blockage was in the southbound lanes.

As the officer was responding to the scene, he saw headlights up ahead. He believed them to be those of the disabled vehicle. However, the headlights belonged to another motorist’s vehicle that had stopped to assist the pick-up truck driver. As the officer approached the scene at 104 miles per hour, he crashed into the pick-up truck, which had its lights off. The driver of the pick-up truck was later determined to be legally intoxicated.

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Earlier this month, a settlement was reached between a woman who was seriously injured while attending a track-and-field meet and the school where the injury occurred. According to a national news source covering the case, the accident occurred back in 2014 at a track meet for a local high school.

Discus in HandEvidently, the 85-year-old plaintiff was struck by a discus that had been thrown by a student athlete while she was standing in an area that was designated for spectators. The woman and her husband filed a personal injury lawsuit against the school under a premises liability theory. The couple alleged that the area designated for spectators was negligently placed in a dangerous location. Specifically, the couple claimed that since the spectator area was too close to where the student athletes were competing, spectators were at an unreasonable risk of being injured.

After the incident, the school decided to push back the spectator area and install signage, warning spectators about the potential dangers. Ultimately, the plaintiff was offered $350,000 for her injuries by the school, and she accepted.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Rhode Island issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit brought by a man who fell down a spiral staircase as he was helping a friend move furniture out of the apartment that his friend rented from the defendant landlord. The court ultimately affirmed the trial judge’s ruling to overturn the jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiff because insufficient evidence was presented to hold the defendant liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.

Spiral StaircaseThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was helping his friend, who rented an apartment from the defendant, move some furniture. The only way to the apartment was up a spiral staircase. There was a small landing outside the apartment door, where residents would be able to stand as they unlocked the door.

As the plaintiff and his friend attempted to move a large piece of furniture out of the apartment, they first placed it on the landing. The plaintiff then repositioned himself a few steps below the landing, and he leaned against the handrail to keep his balance. As he leaned on the hand rail, he heard a crack, and the rail gave way. The plaintiff fell over the railing and through the center of the spiral staircase. The plaintiff then filed a premises liability lawsuit against the landlord, alleging that the landlord failed to keep the common areas of the apartment complex in a reasonably safe condition.

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Earlier this month, a Georgia appellate court issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit brought by several tenants and their guests against the landlord that owned the home where the injuries occurred. Ultimately, the court determined that although the injuries occurred on the landlord’s property, the plaintiffs failed to meet the heightened burden required to establish liability against an out-of-possession landlord.

Back PorchThe Facts of the Case

The landlord purchased the home back in 1987. Shortly after the purchase, the landlord hired an independent contractor to replace the rear deck. The home was rented without incident until 2010.

Around the time when the plaintiffs moved into the home, the landlord went to the property to replace a few of the boards on the rear deck. Evidently, some of the boards were stained, and others had been charred by previous tenants. The landlord conducted a visual check of the deck and testified that everything seemed fine.

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