Articles Posted in Personal Injury Case Law

In a recent case, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Virginia premises liability lawsuit addressing a previously unanswered question regarding the duty a vacation home owner owes to short-term guests. The case may prove instructive to homeowners dealing with Washington, D.C. premises liability cases. The court in this case ultimately concluded that the arrangement to rent a vacation home, even for a short period of time, more closely resembles the relationship between a landlord and a tenant than it does an innkeeper and a guest.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendants owned a home in Virginia Beach. The defendants would rent the home out to vacationers between May and October. During those months, the defendants used a property management company to handle the day-to-day duties associated with maintaining the home, including cleaning the house which was only done in between stays. The home was rented fully furnished.

The plaintiff’s family rented the defendants’ vacation home for a week. The plaintiff checked in at the property management office and was provided linens. As the plaintiff was carrying a bin of linens through the house, she tripped on a raised strip of wood that was used as a transition between carpet and tile. As a result of the fall, the plaintiff seriously injured her elbow, which later required two surgeries.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing an important doctrine of law called res ipsa loquitor. The court’s discussion of res ipsa loquitor is important for Maryland personal injury victims to understand because Maryland also employs the doctrine in certain situations.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured when she was exiting an elevator. Evidently, the elevator doors unexpectedly and repeatedly closed on the plaintiff. The plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the condo association where her injuries occurred, relying on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor.

The Doctrine of Res Ipsa Loquitor

Res ipsa loquitor is a Latin phrase meaning “the thing speaks for itself.” The legal doctrine of res ipsa loquitor allows for a fact-finder to infer negligence against a party that is in sole control of an instrumentality that malfunctions and causes injury to another. Thus, when res ipsa loquitor applies, a plaintiff can rely on the inference of negligence rather than presenting evidence on what caused their injuries.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case presenting an important issue that frequently arises in Washington, D.C. car accident cases filed against an allegedly negligent driver’s employer. The case required the court to determine if the defendant employer could be held liable for the allegedly negligent acts of an employee. Finding that the plaintiff failed to present evidence showing that the employee was acting within the scope of her employment at the time of the accident, the court determined that the defendant employer could not be held liable.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff was injured when her vehicle was struck by another motorist who was talking on the phone at the time of the accident. Evidently, the other driver was coming home from her boyfriend’s house and was talking on the phone with one of the employees whom she supervises at work.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the employer of the other driver, claiming that the driver’s employer was vicariously liable for her negligence. The plaintiff argued that liability was appropriate because the alleged at-fault driver was on a work-related call at the time of the accident.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case discussing whether a ski resort could be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries that occurred while she was snowboarding. The case presents interesting issues for Washington, D.C. accident victims who have been injured while engaging in a recreational activity such as skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing, bicycling, or any other outdoor activity that takes place on another’s property with their permission.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was a season-pass holder at the defendant ski resort. Prior to obtaining her season pass, the plaintiff signed a liability-release from, acknowledging certain inherent risks associated with skiing and snowboarding “posed by variations in terrain and snow conditions, . . . unmarked obstacles, . . . devices, . . . and other hazards whether they are obvious or not. . . collisions with natural and man-made objects, including . . . snow making equipment, snowmobiles and other over-snow vehicles.” The waiver also contained a clause agreeing not to hold the ski resort liable for injuries caused by its own negligence.

Evidently, on her last run of the day, the plaintiff collided with a snow-cat, which is a large vehicle that grooms ski runs, making them smoother and more enjoyable to ski on. The plaintiff was seriously injured as a result of the collision and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the ski resort.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving the application of the state’s recreational-use statute (RUS). A RUS is a statute that grants qualifying landowners legal immunity from injuries that occur on their land if certain conditions are met. Importantly, the applicability of a RUS must be established by the landowner.

The case is important to Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall injury victims because each of these jurisdictions has a version of a recreational-use statute that may apply in some situations.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was seriously injured when his bike struck a pothole while he was riding on a path in a park that was maintained by the defendant city. The plaintiff claimed that the city was negligent in allowing the pothole to exist and had acted willfully or maliciously in its failure to warn park visitors or fix the hazard.

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In many Washington, D.C. personal injury cases, the issues raised in the case are within the common understanding of jurors and the jurors are able to resolve the issues on their own. However, in more complex cases, or those that raise issues involving professional standards of care that may be beyond the scope of jurors’ common understanding, the plaintiff may need to present an expert witness in order to effectively explain certain issues.

Expert witnesses are most common in Washington, D.C. medical malpractice cases, but they are also used in other types of negligence cases. Federal Rule of Evidence 702 explains that a person may be considered an expert if they possess “knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education.” Once an expert is qualified, they are able to present opinion testimony if certain additional facts are met.

Expert witness testimony is critical in some Washington, D.C. personal injury cases, especially those involving issues that are unfamiliar to the jurors or in situations where the opposing party is presenting expert testimony. A recent case illustrates the importance of expert witness testimony.

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When a Washington, D.C. personal injury case goes to trial, a number of procedural issues can arise that may delay or confuse the proceedings. In one case before a state appellate court, the court had to consider whether a party’s strike of an African-American juror was valid.

A plaintiff brought an uninsured/underinsured motorist claim against an insurance company, and the case went to trial. Before the trial began, the insurance company used a peremptory challenge to strike an African-American female as a juror. The plaintiff’s lawyer objected to the challenge on racial grounds, noting that the potential juror was a member of a distinct racial group, and asked for the reason for striking the juror.

The insurance company’s lawyer stated that he was striking her because she was inattentive and did not seem to be engaged in the jury selection process, so he was concerned she would not pay attention and focus on the evidence at trial. The court then concluded that the basis for the strike was “legally insufficient.” The trial court noted that the juror was “not particularly engaged” and did not find the lawyer’s explanation for the strike to be “disingenuous,” but nevertheless found that the potential juror’s apparent “introverted personality” was not a sufficient race-neutral reason for a peremptory challenge. The trial went forward, and the jury found in favor of the plaintiff.

In a recent opinion issued by a federal appellate court, the court permitted a plaintiff’s slip-and-fall case to proceed against a grocery store after a lower court dismissed the plaintiff’s claim. The case involved the application of the summary judgment standard, requiring the court to determine if the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence that the defendant grocery store had knowledge of the hazard that caused his fall.

Finding that the plaintiff’s theory of what caused his fall was more plausible than the grocery store’s proposed alternative, the court reversed the lower court and allowed the plaintiff’s case to proceed. The case illustrates important general concepts of defense motions for summary judgment, which frequently are filed in Washington, D.C. personal injury cases.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was shopping at Wal-Mart when he slipped and fell after stepping in a puddle of slippery liquid. The store’s surveillance camera caught the incident, and showed that, at 6:56, an employee using an automated floor-cleaning machine came down the aisle and the employee operating the machine paused at a particular spot where the floor changed from white vinyl to brown tile. While the store had a written policy to place “wet floor” signs in areas that were to be cleaned, no signs were present.

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In order to establish liability in a Washington, D.C. premises liability lawsuit, the plaintiff must present evidence that the defendant landowner’s negligence caused their injuries. While causation can be inferred from the facts of some slip-and-fall cases, other cases require expert testimony to assist the judge or jury in understanding why the defendant’s actions caused the plaintiff’s injuries.In a recent case, a court dismissed a plaintiff’s slip-and-fall case for lack of causation, even though she presented the testimony of an expert who claimed that the floor where the plaintiff fell constituted a dangerous hazard because it was not up to industry standards for slip resistance.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was shopping at the defendant grocery store when she slipped and fell in the bakery area of the store. The plaintiff testified that she did not see anything on the floor prior to her fall or after her fall. However, when filling out the incident report after the fall, she described feeling as though she stepped in something slippery. A store employee who came to the plaintiff’s aid did not notice anything on the floor but did take note of the fact that the plaintiff was wearing three-inch heels.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an interesting personal injury case dealing with the burden a defendant has in order to succeed in a summary judgment motion. The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to permit her case to proceed to trial over the defendant restaurant’s summary judgment challenge. Holding that the evidence did not preclude a finding in the plaintiff’s favor, the court determined summary judgment in favor of the defendant was inappropriate.The case presents an important issue for Washington, D.C. premises liability plaintiffs, in that it illustrates the manner in which courts view claims brought by customers against business owners for injuries that occur on their premises.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was dining at the defendant restaurant with a friend. Specifically, the two were outside on the patio of the restaurant. During lunch, the plaintiff removed a light jacket and set it down either on the chair next to her or on a low cement wall adjacent to the table. After the two had finished, the plaintiff put her jacket back on and immediately felt a sharp pain in her shoulder. When the plaintiff’s friend asked her what was wrong, the plaintiff responded that she thought something had bitten her.

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