Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case that presented an interesting issue that will be relevant for many Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall accident victims. The case discusses the threshold issue in many premises liability cases, specifically, the quantum of evidence necessary to survive a defense summary judgment challenge.
Generally speaking, summary judgment is a process by which a party asks a court to make a legal determination based on the pleadings. Essentially, when a party asks the court to grant a motion for summary judgment, the party is claiming that by looking at the uncontested evidence, the other party cannot prevail as a matter of law. Importantly, summary judgment is not appropriate when the opposing party can establish that there is a contested material fact.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was shopping with her husband at the defendant grocery store. The couple put several bottles of juice in their cart, and then the plaintiff separated from her husband to find a restroom.
As the plaintiff returned from the restroom in search of her husband, she fell on a puddle of brown-orange liquid. At this same time, a store employee was cleaning up a puddle of liquid in an adjacent aisle. Coincidentally, the plaintiff’s husband soon afterward realized that the juice in the couple’s cart had been leaking as he continued shopping while his wife was in the restroom.
The plaintiff later brought a personal injury lawsuit against the store. In response to the plaintiff’s allegations, the grocery store filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming that the plaintiff’s case was insufficient as a matter of law because she failed to submit evidence showing how long the spill had been present.
In the jurisdiction where the case arose, and also in Washington, D.C., premises liability plaintiffs must be able to establish that the landowner knew or should have known that the hazard existed. Here, the grocery store claimed that the plaintiff’s case was missing this critical piece of evidence.
The court, however, rejected the grocery store’s claim, relying on video surveillance showing the plaintiff’s fall. As it turns out, the video was cued to record only when triggered by motion, so the video only recorded a few seconds before the plaintiff’s fall. This, the court held, gave rise to a material issue of fact regarding how long the spill had been present. As a result, the court concluded that the issue of whether the spill had been present for a long enough time to hold the grocery store liable was a matter for the jury to resolve.
Have You Been Injured in a Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. These cases, however, are highly fact-specific and often turn on the most obscure and minute details. The dedicated Washington, D.C. personal injury lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have decades of experience representing victims in all types of premises liability cases, and they know what it takes to succeed on their clients’ behalf. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
Court Determines that Grocery Store’s Ignorance of Risk Cannot Excuse Its Lack of Knowledge in Recent Premises Liability Case, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, May 16, 2018
Court Excuses Plaintiff’s Untimely Filing Based on Dentist Fraudulently Concealing Potential Malpractice, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, May 2, 2018