Court Permits Premises Liability Case to Proceed over Defense Summary Judgment Motion

Landowners in Washington, D.C. have a duty to those whom they invite onto their land to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition. When someone is injured on another party’s property in Washington, D.C., they may be able to seek compensation for their injuries through a Washington, D.C. premises liability lawsuit.

In order to prove a premises liability case, a plaintiff will need to establish certain elements. For example, a plaintiff must establish that they were not aware of the hazard on the defendant’s property that caused their injuries. Similarly, the plaintiff must also establish that the harm the plaintiff suffered was foreseeable to the defendant. A recent appellate opinion filed in a premises liability case illustrates the type of analysis courts conduct in these lawsuits.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the parent of a child who wandered away from a party that was held on the defendant’s property and tragically drowned in the nearby Mississippi River. According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff and her son were at a family member’s home for a party. It was a hot day, and the plaintiff’s son went swimming in the river with several adults and several children.

When it was time for the adults to go set up for the party, the children were told it was time to go back up to the house. The plaintiff followed instructions, returned to the home, and began playing basketball with several of the other children. However, about 10 minutes later, relatives found the boy face down in the river. He was unable to be resuscitated.

The boy’s mother filed a premises liability lawsuit against the property owner, claiming that the defendant failed to guard access to the river and supervise the children who were present. The lower court dismissed the case against the defendant, determining that the risk of drowning was not one that the defendant could have foreseen. The plaintiff appealed to an intermediate appellate court, which affirmed the case on the grounds that the risk of drowning was “obvious” and known to the plaintiff’s son. The plaintiff appealed to the state’s highest court.

On the most recent appeal, the case was reversed in favor of the plaintiff. The court explained the defendant was liable if the boy was injured on his land, except if the hazard was known or obvious, unless the defendant should have anticipated the harm. Thus, the intermediate court’s holding that the danger was “obvious” to the plaintiff’s son was only relevant if the harm was not a foreseeable one. The court then held that the determination of whether the risk of drowning was a foreseeable risk was a decision that should be made by a jury, rather than by a court in a pre-trial summary judgment motion. Thus, the lower courts’ decisions were reversed, and the plaintiff’s case will proceed toward trial or settlement negotiations.

Have You Been Injured on Another Party’s Property?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured while on another party’s property, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Washington, D.C. premises liability lawsuit. All landowners owe some duty of care to those whom they invite onto their property. However, the type of duty owed depends heavily on what caused the injury, as well as the relationship between the parties. To learn more about Washington, D.C. premises liability law, and to speak with a dedicated personal injury attorney about your case, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Plaintiffs’ Claim to Recover Medical Expenses Dismissed Because It Was Filed After the Applicable Statute of Limitations, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, October 3, 2017

Government Liability for Washington, D.C. Accidents, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, October 10, 2017

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