While it is true that landowners have a duty to ensure that their property is safe for all invited guests, the mere fact that someone was hurt on another party’s property is not enough to establish that the property owner is responsible for the victim’s injuries. In order to succeed in a Washington, D.C. premises liability lawsuit, a plaintiff must establish certain elements.
The duty of care owed to a guest by a landowner is determined by the relationship between the two parties. For example, a social guest is owed a greater duty of care than a trespasser. Similarly, someone visiting a property for commercial purposes (i.e., a customer) is owed a greater duty of care than a social guest. Customers are considered invitees under Washington, D.C. premises liability law, and they are owed the highest duty of care.
In order to establish that a landowner is liable for a plaintiff’s injuries, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant knew or should have known about the hazard that caused their injuries. A recent opinion shows how courts view these claims, as well as common arguments made by landowners.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was shopping at a grocery store when she slipped and fell near the store’s self-service buffet area. The plaintiff, through the assistance of an interpreter, explained that she was finishing up her shopping when she suddenly fell. She did not see any substance on the floor prior to her fall, but upon getting up, she noticed that the floor was “dirty” with a greasy, creamy substance.
The plaintiff’s son, who was with her at the time of her accident, also testified regarding his mother’s fall. For the most part, the testimony of the plaintiff and her son were consistent. Notably, both the plaintiff and her son explained that it looked as though another customer had already stepped in the substance and tracked it around the store.
There was also evidence presented that the grocery store had a written policy by which an employee would inspect the store every 15 minutes for hazards. However, the plaintiff argued that an inspection had not been performed. Additionally, while there was a surveillance video focused on this particular portion of the store, the grocery store only preserved a few seconds of footage, none of which showed the spill’s origin.
Before trial began, the court granted a defense motion for summary judgment on the basis that the plaintiff failed to present any evidence that the grocery store knew or should have known about the spill. The plaintiff filed a timely appeal.
On appeal, the court reversed the lower court’s decision, finding that the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to give rise to a disputed issue of whether the grocery store had constructive knowledge of the spill.
Have You Been Injured in a Washington, D.C. Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall accident, the attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC can help. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, we represent victims in all types of Washington, D.C. personal injury matters, including slip-and-fall accidents and other cases involving premises liability theories. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule your 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 Reverses Summary Judgment in Favor of Plaintiff in Recent Premises Liability Lawsuit, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, June 4, 2018