Articles Posted in Personal Injury Case Law

In most Washington, D.C. personal injury cases, the jury makes the final decision as to whether the defendant is liable, and the judge aids the jury in making this determination by ruling on preliminary issues and then instructs the jury on the appropriate law. However, in some rare cases, a judge can grant a party’s motion for judgment as a matter of law after a jury has rendered a verdict, essentially reversing the jury’s decision.

When granted, these motions are almost always appealed. Thus, post-verdict motions for judgment as a matter of law are typically only allowed if the judge believes that the jury decided the case incorrectly. A recent federal appellate case illustrates the high bar a party must meet when seeking such a motion.

According to the court’s recitation of the facts giving rise to the case, the plaintiff was a guest at a friend’s wedding, which was held at the defendant resort. As the night progressed, several of the guests decided they would jump into the resort’s pool, which was near the dance floor. As guests ran from the dance floor to the pool and back, the floor became wet.

A release of liability is a type of contract by which one party releases another party from liability that may otherwise have been the basis for a Washington, D.C. personal injury case. Releases of liability are sometimes separate forms that must be signed by the participant or their parent, as in the case of school field trips. However, releases of liability are also frequently on the back of tickets to events such as concerts, festivals, museums, or certain pay-to-play activities such as skiing, bungee-jumping, biking, and rafting.

Liability releases are contracts, and are often found to be enforceable by the courts. If enforceable, a release may excuse the negligent conduct of an operator, preventing an injury victim from pursuing a claim for compensation. However, courts carefully review liability releases to ensure that they are valid. A recent case involving a skiing accident illustrates how courts analyze releases of liability.

According to the court’s opinion, a ten-year-old boy was injured while skiing after he slipped and fell on a patch of machine-made snow. The boy was a member of a local ski team, and regularly skied expert terrain. Before the season began, the boy’s father signed a release of liability on behalf of his son. The release purported to waive the boy’s right to sue the ski team or any ski resort for any injuries he sustained, including injuries that were the result of another party’s negligence.

When a dangerous condition of another’s property results in injury to a guest, the landowner may be liable for any injuries through a Washington, D.C. premises liability lawsuit. Often, these injuries occur at grocery stores, museums, parking lots, or on public property; however, it is not uncommon for this type of accident to occur while on the property of a friend or family member.

Just because an accident occurs on the property of a friend or family member does not mean that the injured party is without recourse. Indeed, this is the reason why homeowners carry insurance on their property. However, an accident victim still must be able to establish the elements of a premises liability lawsuit in order to recover for their injuries. This generally requires the plaintiff to show that the defendant was negligent in the maintenance of their property. A recent state appellate decision serves as an example of the type of evidence that must be presented in order for an injury victim to succeed.

As the court explained the facts, the plaintiff slipped and fell on an extension cord that was running down a set of outdoor steps while attending a party at the defendant’s home. The defendant was not home at the time, and was not the host of the party. Apparently, the defendant had allowed for another friend to host the party at his home.

When someone is injured in a Washington, D.C. accident, they are entitled to pursue a claim for compensation against the parties they believe to be responsible for their injuries. In many cases, the injured party will bring multiple claims against the at-fault party, each with a different legal standard. In a recent state appellate decision, the court wrestled with the question of whether the plaintiff’s claims were properly dismissed by the lower court.

In that case, the plaintiff was a truck driver who arrived at his destination to pick up a load of corn. The plaintiff was responsible for ensuring the quality of the corn, so he waited near the loading dock while an employee with the processing facility loaded the corn onto the plaintiff’s truck. At some point, the forklift driver struck the plaintiff, knocking the plaintiff off the loading dock, at which point he hit his head on the side of the truck. The plaintiff suffered serious injuries and was no longer able to work.

The plaintiff filed two distinct claims against the processing plant. First, under the theory of respondeat superior, the plaintiff claimed that the plant was liable for the negligent actions of the forklift driver. Second, the plaintiff argued that the plant was negligent under a premises liability theory, specifically, for failing to, “protect invitees from the hazard posed by its forklift drivers and failing to keep the premises safe for invitees.”

To successfully bring a Washington, D.C. personal injury case, a plaintiff must be able to prove not just that the defendant was negligent but also that the defendant’s negligence was the cause of their injuries. While the concept of causation may sound like a straightforward determination, in practice, the element can be exceedingly complex.

Causation can be broken down into two separate inquiries, the first being “but for” causation, or cause-in-fact. To satisfy the cause-in-fact element, the plaintiff must show that absent the defendant’s negligence, the accident would not have occurred. In most cases, cause-in-fact is not difficult to establish.

The second part of a causation inquiry is called proximate cause, or legal cause. Not only is proximate cause much more complicated, but it is also more challenging to prove. Proximate cause requires that a plaintiff prove that the defendant’s negligence and the plaintiff’s injuries are sufficiently related to say that the defendant’s actions were the legal cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

By some estimates, the District of Columbia gets nearly 19 million tourists per year. By and large, these visitors stay at hotels and homestays across the Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. region. Occasionally, a hotel or homeowner fails to take the necessary precautions to make the property safe for visitors, increasing the chance of an accident. When an overnight guest is injured due to the negligence of a hotel or homeowner, the property owner may be held liable through a Washington, D.C premises liability lawsuit.

It is important to keep in mind that many issues can come up in a Washington, D.C. premises liability case. A recent state appellate opinion illustrates a common issue that comes up in hotel slip-and-fall cases. Specifically, the case deals with whether the plaintiff’s evidence was sufficient to establish that the hazard he claimed caused his fall presented an “unreasonable risk” of harm.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was in town for a sporting event and stayed at the defendant hotel with a friend. While the plaintiff was taking a shower, he slipped and fell, hitting his head. The plaintiff briefly lost consciousness. The plaintiff took pictures of the tub after his fall, and two days later his wife reported the incident to the hotel.

The ultimate question in a Washington, D.C. personal injury case is whether the defendant is liable for the plaintiff’s injuries; however, before a case even reaches a jury, countless other legal issues must be addressed. One issue that frequently comes up, but is often initially overlooked by accident victims, is where a Washington, D.C. personal injury case should be filed.

The general rule is that the plaintiff can file the case in whatever jurisdiction they choose. However, the court where the lawsuit is filed must have jurisdiction over the defendant; otherwise, the court will not have the legal authority to hear the case. In some personal injury cases, such as Washington, D.C. (the “District”) car accident cases, jurisdiction is easily established because the wrongful act occurred within the District. However, other types of cases, can present more complex scenarios. A recent case illustrates the concept of jurisdiction and why it is important where a claim is filed.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff, who lived in Arkansas, traveled to Louisiana to attend a “tent sale” at a sporting goods store. While the plaintiff was shopping in the tent, she tripped and fell on a rug and broke her arm. The plaintiff filed a premises liability case against the store in her home state of Arkansas.

One of the most important decisions any Washington, D.C. personal injury plaintiffs must make early on in the process is which parties to name as defendants in the lawsuit. Failing to name all potentially liable parties can have a disastrous effect on the plaintiff’s case for several reasons. First, a plaintiff typically only gets “one bite at the apple” and cannot file a second case based on the same allegations. Second, if a named defendant can convince the judge or jury that an unnamed party bore responsibility for the plaintiff’s injuries, the named defendant may escape liability entirely.

In Washington, D.C. dog bite cases, the owner of the animal that attacked the plaintiff should certainly be named as a defendant. However, depending on the surrounding circumstances, there may be additional parties, such as a landlord or property manager, who should be named. A recent case shows the type of analysis courts engage in when considering a dog-bite claim made against someone other than the animal’s owner.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was out walking her two small dogs when two larger dogs began attacked her animals. The plaintiff tried to intervene, but one of the larger dogs knocked her down to the ground and started attacking her. A neighbor called the police, who shot and killed both of the large dogs. The plaintiff was airlifted to a nearby hospital with serious injuries.

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For many residents and guests, Washington, D.C. is known as a walkable city. At the same time, the District gets its fair share of winter weather. Thus, the winter months always bring about an increase in the number of Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall accidents due to snowy and icy conditions.

Generally, Washington, D.C. landowners (including the government) have a duty to ensure that their property is safe for visitors. The case of snow and ice is no exception, and landowners should take the necessary actions to clear their property of hazardous snow and ice. Of course, property owners cannot be responsible for immediately clearing snow as it falls, so the law provides a 24-hour grace period. However, after 24 hours, a landowner can be liable for injuries that occur due to snowy or icy conditions on their property.

Weather-related slip-and-fall accidents frequently raise a number of unique issues beyond those that typically arise in a premises liability case. A recent case illustrates one court’s distinction between the “natural” and “unnatural” accumulation of snow. While Washington, D.C, premises liability law does not draw this same distinction, the local law is similar in that courts focus on the landowner’s knowledge of the hazard and the appropriateness of their actions in remedying the hazardous conditions.

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As a general rule, Washington, D.C. landowners owe a duty of care to those whom they allow onto their property, and when someone is injured on another’s property they may be able to pursue a claim for compensation through a Washington, D.C. premises liability lawsuit. However, landowners are not always responsible for a visitor’s injuries. Thus, a common question that comes up in Washington, D.C. premises liability cases is whether a landowner can be liable for injuries caused by criminal acts of a third-party.

These cases are more common than most people think. For example, violent criminal acts that occur in Washington, D.C. apartment complexes, schools, playgrounds, basketball courts, or parking lots may all be preventable. However, determining when the landowner can be held liable for the injuries caused as a result of such criminal conduct can be tricky. A recent state appellate opinion discusses how courts view premises liability claims based on a third-party’s criminal conduct.

The Facts

In its opinion, the court explained that the plaintiff had just finished picking up a few items at the grocery store and was walking to her car when she was approached by a man who shot and killed her. The estate of the plaintiff filed a wrongful death claim against the owner of the grocery store, arguing that the owner had a duty to protect customers from the criminal acts of third parties.

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