Articles Posted in Personal Injury Case Law

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that was brought against a hardware store after the plaintiff slipped and fell in the garden section. The case required the court to discuss what it termed the “distraction doctrine,” which may excuse a plaintiff’s failure to notice an open and obvious hazard.

The case is important to Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall victims because courts have routinely held that a plaintiff’s failure to notice an open and obvious hazard will preclude recovery. Thus, although the plaintiff’s argument, in this case, failed to persuade the court, the example illustrates when a plaintiff’s failure to take notice of a hazard may be excused.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was a frequent customer of the defendant hardware store. One day, the plaintiff visited the store to pick up a sprinkler timer. The plaintiff approached an employee in the garden section to ask where the timers were located. The employee told the plaintiff to follow him, and the plaintiff began to follow the employee.

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For a plaintiff to succeed in a personal injury case, they must be able to establish that the defendant’s negligence resulted in their injuries. In the context of a Washington, D.C. premises liability case, a plaintiff must show that the defendant was aware of the hazard that caused the plaintiff’s injuries and failed to take reasonable steps to remedy the hazard.

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a premises liability case discussing whether a plaintiff’s claim against a doctor’s office could proceed. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff could not establish that the office knew of the hazard before the plaintiff’s fall and dismissed the plaintiff’s case.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff was walking near a desk at the defendant doctor’s office when she felt something grab her pant leg. The plaintiff fell to the ground. While on the ground, the plaintiff noticed a wheelchair nearby that was leaned up against a desk. The plaintiff did not see what caused her to fall, but assumed it was the wheelchair.

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Earlier last month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving the question of whether a retail store violated a duty it owed to a customer when it failed to provide the customer with a staged shopping cart. Ultimately, the court concluded that the store’s duty was not defined by its internal operating procedures, and that the store had no obligation to provide the plaintiff with a staged shopping cart. Thus, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s claims.

The case presents an important issue that frequently arises in Washington, D.C. premises liability cases. Specifically, whether a landowner has a duty to a visitor, and if so, the extent of that duty.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was an older man who required a cane and an oxygen tank. One day, the plaintiff’s wife dropped him off at the front of the store. The plaintiff went to obtain a shopping cart from the corral of carts near the store’s entrance. Because the shopping carts were stuck together, the plaintiff placed his cane and oxygen tank inside a cart as he tried to separate the carts. However, the plaintiff slipped and fell while trying to separate the carts, sustaining serious injuries as a result.

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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.

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