Court Permits Premises Liability Case to Proceed Toward Trial on Plaintiff’s Own Testimony

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.

After the accident, the plaintiff testified that an employee of the store told him that it was a trailer hitch that had caused his injury. The plaintiff also testified that he saw employees stacking trailer hitches high up on the shelves after the accident.

The defendant store claimed that there was a store policy not to keep heavy objects high on the shelves, and that the plaintiff’s version of the events could not be accurate. Both the plaintiff and the defendant had experts testify in their favor.

The store moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff had failed to present any evidence that the store knew or should have known about the dangerous hazard. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

The Appellate Decision

On appeal, the court reversed the lower court’s ruling, and allowed the plaintiff’s case to proceed toward trial. The court explained that the plaintiff brought two different claims in his complaint, and each was supported by sufficient evidence.

The plaintiff’s first claim was that the store failed to remedy a known hazardous condition. This claim, the court explained, required the plaintiff to prove that the defendant store had knowledge of the hazard, or should have had such knowledge. However, the court determined that the plaintiff met his burden through his testimony that he saw trailer hitches high up on the shelf beyond the reach of customers. The court accepted the plaintiff’s argument that, given the placement of the hitches’ high up on the shelf, it was likely a customer did not place them there. Thus, the court found the inference that the store employees were aware of the presence of the hitches a reasonable one.

The plaintiff’s second claim was that the defendant was responsible for the hazard that caused his injuries. This claim, the court explained, did not require the plaintiff to prove that the defendant had knowledge of the hazard. Here, the court held again that the plaintiff’s testimony that the hitches were stored high up on the shelf created a material fact as to whether the store created the hazard that ultimately caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

As a result, the plaintiff’s case was permitted to proceed towards trial on both claims.

Have You Been Injured in a Washington, D.C. Business?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured while shopping in a retail store, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Washington, D.C. premises liability lawsuit. At the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers we represent injury victims in all types of Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. personal injury claims. To learn more about how we can help you recover for your injuries, call 410-654-3600 today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Determines Employer Does Not Have a Duty to Protect Employee-Plaintiff Outside the Scope of Employment, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, June 18, 2018

Liability in Washington, D.C. Amusement Park Accidents, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, July 3, 2018

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