Articles Posted in Personal Injury Case Law

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

In a recent personal injury case, a state appellate court held that a grocery store could be held liable for a plaintiff’s injuries that were caused by an independently contracted maintenance worker’s failure to clean up a puddle of soapy water after mopping the floor. The case presents an interesting and important issue for Washington, D.C. personal injury victims because it illustrates under what circumstances a business owner can be held liable for the negligence of others.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was shopping at the defendant grocery store when she slipped and fell in a puddle of soapy water. Evidently, the puddle formed after the maintenance worker had mopped the store’s floors the evening before.

The maintenance worker did not work for the defendant grocery store, but for a company that the grocery store had contracted with to perform all the store’s cleaning. So the grocery store contracted with the cleaning company to perform the cleaning services, and then the cleaning company hired the maintenance worker as an independent contractor to perform the actual cleaning.

Continue Reading

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing what that court called the “sudden emergency doctrine.” The court explained that the doctrine applies when a defendant is faced with a sudden emergency, and if it applies, it excuses the defendant from exercising reasonable judgment. Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant met the elements of the affirmative defense, and dismissed the plaintiff’s claim. The case presents an interesting issue for Washington, D.C. car accident victims in that it discussed under what situations a defendant’s potentially negligent conduct may be excused.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was getting on the highway when the driver that was behind her quickly passed her, making an obscene gesture as he passed. The passing driver then slammed on his brakes, causing the plaintiff to quickly apply her own brakes in order to avoid an accident. The car immediately behind the plaintiff also applied the brakes, and was able to stop in time to avoid an accident.

The defendant truck driver was driving behind the third car in line, and despite braking and sounding his horn, was unable to stop in time. The defendant crashed into the car in front of him, and that car was pushed into the plaintiff’s vehicle.

Continue Reading

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case requiring that the court determine if the trial judge properly granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment in the plaintiff’s premises liability lawsuit. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s testimony created a genuine issue of material fact, necessitating a jury trial. Thus, the court reversed the lower court’s decision to grant the defendant’s motion.

The case is important for Washington, D.C. personal injury victims because it illustrates the summary judgment standard, as well as the evidence necessary to survive this type of challenge by the defense.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was shopping at the defendant hardware store when he caught sight of a heavy object out of the corner of his eye falling to the ground. The object made contact with the back of the plaintiff’s leg, causing him to fall and sustain serious injuries.

Continue Reading

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that raised an important issue that often comes up in Washington, D.C. premises liability lawsuits. The case presented the court with the issue of whether a plaintiff’s knowledge of the hazard that caused her fall was fatal to her claim. Ultimately, the court determined that the plaintiff’s knowledge of the hazard precluded any liability on the defendant shop-owner’s part.

The Facts of the Case

On a cold January morning, the plaintiff was running an errand for her employer which required her to pick up an order at the defendant’s shop. The plaintiff arrived at the shop and as she approached the front door, noticed that there was a puddle of water on the pavement at the base of the stairs leading up to the entrance. The plaintiff then noticed that there was a spigot that had been left open and was dripping, resulting in a slippery hazard.

The plaintiff made it by the icy patch and up the stairs, at which point she informed an employee of the puddle. The employee explained that someone had left the spigot open so the pipes wouldn’t freeze, and instructed the plaintiff to exit out a set of rolling doors along the side of the building. However, the employee told the plaintiff not to let anyone else know that he permitted her to leave through that door, because it could result in him being fired.

Continue Reading

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a wrongful death case brought by the estate of a woman who was hit by a train after being told to leave her workplace while intoxicated. The court had to determine if the estate could prevail in a negligence lawsuit based on the fact that the woman’s employer provided her with alcohol, knowing she was an alcoholic, and then ejected her from the premises. Ultimately, the court concluded that the duty an employer owes to an employee does not extend beyond the scope of employment and rejected the estate’s lawsuit.

The case presents an interesting issue for employees injured in Washington, D.C. workplace accidents that were caused by a third party.

The Facts of the Case

The deceased employee worked for a company that maintained a bar on the premises. Employees were encouraged to stay after work and have a drink, in hopes that the employees would stay at work longer and produce more output.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Summary Judgment

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.

Continue Reading

Contact Information