When someone slips and falls in public, they may be embarrassed and assume that their fall was 100% their fault. However, it is important for Washington, D.C. residents to remember that there are often times where a property owner is responsible for allowing a hazardous situation on their property—a situation that causes people to slip and fall. In fact, those injured in these types of accidents may even be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit against a property owner to claim monetary damages, which can cover past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages incurred due to the accident.

To be successful in a Washington, D.C. premises liability lawsuit, a plaintiff typically must prove that the hazardous situation that caused them to slip was not “open and obvious.” For example, if there were a large hole in a parking lot, but the hole is large, obvious, and roped off, then it is likely an open and obvious hazard, and someone who falls in may not be able to successfully recover.

Often, parties in these lawsuits will disagree about what constitutes an open and obvious danger. Take a recent state appellate case, for example. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was taking her children to get ice cream when she tripped on a small hole in the pavement outside the ice cream shop. She sued the property owners, but the defendants argued they could not be held liable because the small hole was open and obvious. The trial court agreed and granted judgment to the defendants without even allowing it to get to a jury, but the case was appealed.

When someone is injured in a Washington, D.C. accident, the law allows them to file a personal injury lawsuit against the party responsible for their injuries. These lawsuits can provide injured plaintiffs with financial compensation for their injuries, including money to cover their medical expenses. However, courts across the country have struggled with how to calculate the amount owed in medical expenses in situations where the total cost is much larger than what the plaintiff has actually paid, due to health insurance. In some cases, courts have even reduced plaintiffs’ awards, granted to them by a jury, meaning the plaintiff is given less than a jury of their peers decided they were owed.

For example, take a recent premises liability case arising out of a slip and fall accident on a cruise ship. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff in the case was on a cruise with her family and eating at the ship’s breakfast buffet when she tripped over a cleaning bucket and fell to the floor, sustaining injuries to her shoulder and fracturing her humerus. Since the incident, the plaintiff has been to many doctor’s appointments, physical therapists, and specialists to deal with her injuries.

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the cruise company, alleging negligence in leaving the cleaning bucket in a highly trafficked area around the breakfast buffet. After trial, the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff and awarded her over $1 million in damages, including $61,000 to cover past medical expenses. This award for medical expenses roughly matched the amount billed by the plaintiff’s healthcare providers. However, the district court reduced this part of the jury award to $16,326 because that was the amount that the plaintiff and her insurer actually paid. The plaintiff appealed this reduction.

In the event that a consumer is injured by a defective product, a number of parties may be liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. Under Washington, D.C. product liability law, a person or an entity that engages in selling or distributing products is liable for harm caused by a defective product sold or distributed by that person or entity. Therefore, manufacturers and sellers are strictly liable for their defective products.

In a strict liability claim under Washington, D.C. law, a plaintiff must prove that the seller engaged in the business of selling the product that caused the harm, the product was defective and unreasonably dangerous when it was sold to the consumer, the seller expected to and reached the consumer without any substantial change in the product’s condition, and the defect directly and proximately caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

In a recent case before a state appellate court, the court considered the reach of strict liability laws in the online shopping era. Specifically, the court considered whether Amazon could be held liable for a defective product sold on its site. The plaintiff purchased a replacement laptop computer battery on Amazon. The listing identified the seller as “E-life,” and was sold by Lenoge Technology. Amazon charged the plaintiff, packaged the battery for shipment in Amazon packaging, and sent it to the plaintiff. The plaintiff claimed that several months after she bought it, the battery exploded and caused her severe burns. She filed suit against Amazon, Lenoge, and others. The plaintiff claimed in part that Amazon was strictly liable for the defective product. Amazon argued that it did not distribute, manufacture, or sell the product, and thus it could not be held liable under strict liability laws. The trial court agreed, and the plaintiff appealed.

Expert witnesses can provide useful testimony in a Washington, D.C. car accident case—and in some cases, their testimony is essential. Courts have held that in cases where the negligent conduct is “within the realm of common knowledge and everyday experience” a plaintiff does not need to present expert testimony to establish the standard of care or to prove that the defendant failed to meet the standard. However, in some cases, Washington, D.C. courts may require expert testimony to establish the standard of care, breach, or other issues.

If a case involves issues that are beyond the common knowledge of an average person, the court will generally find that an expert is essential to the case. For example, Washington, D.C. courts have held that an expert is required in cases that involve the operation of a juvenile detention center, the supervision of foster parents, the processing of credit card applications, and the maintenance of a water main system. A court has the discretion to admit or require expert testimony in a case.

In a recent case before another state appeals court, the court held that expert testimony was not required to rebut another expert’s testimony. In that case, the plaintiff had been injured in a car accident and filed a negligence claim against another driver involved in the accident, the owner of the vehicle, and an uninsured motorist claim against the plaintiff’s insurer. The plaintiff settled the claims with the driver and the owner but continued to trial against the insurer.

Onions are a staple in many foods that Washington, D.C. residents eat every day. However, currently, red onions are linked to a salmonella outbreak across the United States and Canada. This means that many foods involving onions—from onion rings to burgers and salads with onions on them—may be making people sick. The outbreak and affected onions may be involved in future Washington, D.C. product liability cases. Washington, D.C. residents should be aware of the concern and their legal rights if they fall ill.

According to a New York Times article covering the incident, more than 500 cases of salmonella and at least 75 hospitalizations have been reported in the U.S. and Canada. The cases are all thought to have come from red onions grown in California and transported across the two countries. In the U.S., there have been confirmed cases in at least 34 states. The majority of illnesses and hospitalizations are in the U.S. Salmonella is an illness that causes diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps, and can persist for four to seven days. Those who are older or have weak immune systems are more likely to develop severe cases, and may also experience high fever, headaches, or rashes.

The produce supplier thought to have supplied the contaminated red onions recalled red, yellow, white, and sweet onions as a result of the outbreak. Recalls are not easy—the onions have been sent to wholesalers, restaurants, and grocery stores all across North America. Health officials recommend that consumers throw away any onions (or food made with onions) supplied by Thomson—the distributor. If they are not sure where they got their onions, they are also encouraged to throw them away to be safe.

The rapidly spreading coronavirus (the virus) has highlighted the glaring issues that Americans face when they are medically fragile or experience poverty. Many of these individuals and their families have suffered serious health and financial tolls because of the virus. Although the virus has wrought havoc on people across the socioeconomic and health spectrum, those residing in Washington D.C. nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, prisons, and shelters have suffered at alarming rates. The disparity in the number of cases at these facilities may be due to many factors; however, one common denominator is the lack of effective personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees and residents. The government provides these industries with protection from lawsuits for negligence claims related to their conduct during the crisis; however, there are limitations to this protection.

Although the country understands that these companies seek to help individuals survive the crisis, some situations may warrant a lawsuit. For example, one national news source described the harrowing accounts of healthcare workers who received shipments of outdated, ineffective PPE during a critical time. According to reports, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provided some nursing homes with shipments of PPE; however, the shipments included loose gloves, masks made from underwear, and isolation gowns without openings. Regulators advised these facilities not to use the equipment, because they may present an infection-management risk. FEMA explained that the equipment met federal industry standards, but asked the private contractor to provide replacement equipment. They also claimed that the majority of their shipments were met without complaint.

Ineffective PPE, faulty medical devices, and unsafe drugs can take a devastating and potentially fatal toll on those that rely on the efficacy of these products. The Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act), affords the manufacturers and suppliers of these products with broad protection against lawsuits. However, the entities evoking protection must be a covered business, supply covered countermeasure products, and be engage in covered activities.

In some personal injury cases, negligence may be obvious from the accident itself. In these situations, a plaintiff in a Washington, D.C. injury case may be able to invoke the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor. Res ipsa loquitor is a legal doctrine that applies in negligence cases where negligence is obvious from the occurrence itself. Under Washington, D.C. law, a plaintiff that invokes the doctrine is required to prove, 1.) the occurrence is one that normally does not occur in the absence of negligence; 2.) the occurrence was caused by an agent or instrument that was within the defendant’s control; and 3.) the plaintiff did not cause or contribute to the incident resulting in heir injuries.

Washington, D.C. courts have cautioned against the use of the doctrine. Courts have held that a plaintiff must show that negligence can be inferred based on matters of common knowledge or present an expert to explain that the accident generally did not occur in the absence of negligence. In a recent case, another state’s appeals court considered whether the doctrine absolved the plaintiff of proving that a defendant had notice of a dangerous condition after the plaintiff’s chair broke on a cruise ship.

The plaintiff in the noted case sat on a chair on a Carnival cruise ship and the chair collapsed. After she fell, she saw that a leg had fallen off the chair. At the medical center aboard the ship, they found her arm was not broken and she was given Tylenol, ice, and a sling. After the cruise, the plaintiff discovered that she was suffering from medial epicondylitis and ulnar neurapraxia, or tendinitis, and a nerve injury. The plaintiff filed suit against the cruise line, alleging in part that it had failed to inspect and maintain the cabin furniture. After a court dismissed her case, an appeals court considered whether the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor applied. The plaintiff argued that even if the cruise line did not have notice of the chair’s dangerous condition, it could still be held liable under the this doctrine.

When someone is injured in a Washington, D.C. accident, the District’s laws allow them to file a personal injury suit against whoever caused their injury. This is an important process that allows for many Washington, D.C. accident victims to recover financially for their injuries and losses and move on from an accident. However, it is critical that residents remember that they must bring a claim within a specified period. If they miss filing within this time, which is set by statute and called the statute of limitations, then they will have their suit barred permanently. This can be a harsh wakeup call for accident victims. Thus, anyone who believes they may have been the victim of medical malpractice should contact an attorney sooner rather than later to discuss their case.

For an example of how this works in an actual case, take a recent state supreme medical malpractice opinion. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff suffered from periodontal disease, and received allegedly negligent treatment from October 2011 through December 2012. The plaintiff claimed that his periodontist was negligent in treating him as she failed to adequately diagnose and treat his ailments, causing him extreme pain. Additionally, the plaintiff claimed that the periodontist then failed to give him complete medical records regarding his treatment. The plaintiff filed suit in October of 2015, and the periodontist filed a motion for summary judgment to have the lawsuit dropped based on the two-year statute of limitations.

In most medical malpractice cases, the statute of limitations begins to run not when the injury actually occurs, but when the victim actually finds out about it and discovers that there may be a claim. For example, if a doctor botches a surgery and causes long-term complications, the patient may be fine for several months before they suffer adverse effects and realize what has happened. That is when the statute of limitations might begin to run.

In the District of Columbia, landowners have a general duty to exercise reasonable care to make the property reasonably safe. If a landlord has notice of a dangerous condition, including a hazardous accumulation of snow or ice, the landowner must exercise ordinary care under the circumstances to remove the dangerous condition. This means that a landlord may have a duty under Washington, D.C. premises liability law, to take feasible measures while a storm is still in progress. However, to hold a landlord responsible for their injuries, a plaintiff must show that the landlord knew or should have known about the dangerous condition, including the presence of snow or ice. This means that often, a landlord who does not know about a dangerous accumulation of snow or ice has a reasonable amount of time after the conclusion of a storm to remove the snow or ice.

Recently a state appellate court issued an opinion holding that a landlord was not be protected by the state’s continuing storm doctrine, because the landlord failed to prove that there was a continuing storm based on the weather at the time of the plaintiff’s fall. In that case, the plaintiff slipped and fell on an icy sidewalk outside of her apartment. She filed a lawsuit against her landlord, claiming that the landlord was negligent in failing to keep the path in a safe condition. The landlord argued the according to the continuing storm doctrine, he did not have time to remove or ameliorate the snow or ice at the time that the plaintiff fell.

Under the continuing storm doctrine, a landlord generally may wait until the end of a storm or a reasonable time thereafter to remove ice and snow from an outdoor walkway. The idea is that because of the changing conditions present during a storm, it is not practical or necessary to remove ice and snow. To establish that the continuing storm doctrine applies, there must be meaningful, ongoing accumulation of snow or ice. The court held that in this case, there was a factual dispute as to whether there was a continuing storm. The weather reports showed only trace amounts of precipitation throughout the day, and thus, there was no clear evidence that there was an ongoing accumulation of snow or ice. Therefore, the court held that the landlord failed to show it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law under the continuing storm doctrine.

Washington, D.C.’s Workers’ Compensation Act provides some degree of protection to many injured workers. However, the Act does not protect all workers, does not provide benefits to all family members, and limits the beneficiaries who are able to recover. Under section 32-1504 of the Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act), an employer’s liability under the Act is the exclusive liability of the employer. Thus, a workers’ compensation case may be an injured worker’s only way to recover damages from their employer. The idea is that an employee gives up the right to pursue a tort claim against an employer in exchange for an easier means of recovery through the workers’ compensation system. This means that, normally, claims must be brought first before the Office of Workers’ Compensation and will generally be resolved through the agency.

However, Washington, D.C. law allows an employee to pursue a claim against a third party if a third party, such as a contractor, causes the plaintiff’s injury. In addition, injuries that are intentionally inflicted upon an employee and intended by the employer fall outside of the Act.

A recent case before one state’s supreme court demonstrates the limitations of the intentional-injury exception to that state’s workers’ compensation act. In that case, the plaintiff’s husband worked at a trucking and warehousing company. One day, after working long hours, his rig ran off the highway and rolled over, killing the plaintiff’s husband. The plaintiff filed a claim arguing that her husband was killed because he was overworked by the employer.

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