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In some Washington, D.C. personal injury cases, there are complex issues beyond the understanding of the common juror. Typically, these issues involve the nature and extent of the plaintiff’s injuries and how they are traceable to the defendant’s conduct. In such cases, courts allow parties to call expert witnesses – often doctors – whose expertise can help the jury understand and contextualize the evidence.

Typically, when one party plans on calling an expert witness, the other side will also call an expert witness to offer a contrary position. This situation is referred to as the “battle of the experts,” because the outcome of the case may very well come down to which expert is more believable in the eyes of the jury. Thus, the decision of which expert to call is a critical determination that can make or break an accident victim’s case.

In a recent personal injury opinion released by a federal appellate court, the court discussed what a plaintiff must establish to present an expert witness. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured in an on-the-job accident involving a machine used to crush automobiles and other large pieces of machinery. The plaintiff filed a product liability claim against the manufacturer of the crusher.

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.

The basic principles of Washington, D.C. premises liability law provide that landowners may be liable for a visitor’s injuries in certain situations. Typically, a plaintiff must establish that the landowner was negligent in maintaining the property to successfully recover compensation. There are several common ways plaintiffs can prove that a landowner was negligent.

In a recent state appellate decision, a court discussed two claims brought by a plaintiff who was injured while walking on the sidewalk in the condominium complex where she lived. Evidently, the plaintiff lived in the complex for about ten years. For a good portion of that time, the sidewalk in one specific area was cracked. As time went on, the crack grew larger. One day, the plaintiff tripped and fell while walking over the broken sidewalk.

The plaintiff filed two claims against the condo complex; first, that the complex was negligent in allowing the crack to exist without fixing it. And second, that the complex was negligent for failing to warn residents about the presence of the crack. In a pre-trial motion for summary judgment, the court dismissed both of the plaintiff’s cases, finding that she knew about the crack and chose to traverse that specific area of the sidewalk nonetheless. The court held that the plaintiff’s decision to do so constituted an “assumption of the risk.”

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.”

Products that are made for young children and marketed to parents are assumed to be safe. However, that is not always the case. Each year, hundreds of Washington, D.C. product liability lawsuits are filed based on dangerous or defective products; many of these products are designed for children.

In April, the toy giant Fisher-Price issued a recall of its popular baby sleeper, the Rock ‘n Play, after there had been more than 30 reports of babies dying while using the sleeper. According to an article by the Washington Post, the Rock ‘n Play was created in 2009 in response to the common concern for many parents that their babies would not sleep through the night.

Unlike cribs, bassinets, and other baby sleepers, the Rock ‘n Play allows babies to lie at a 30-degree angle, which was believed to help infants sleep longer. In fact, the company advertised that, “Baby can sleep at a comfortable incline all night long!” However, according to the Washington Post, Fisher-Price developed the sleeper without any clinical research, based on what have now come to be faulty beliefs about babies and how they sleep.

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.

Anyone who has spent time driving around the District of Columbia will not be surprised to hear that poor road conditions and dangerously designed roads are among the common causes of Washington, D.C. car accidents. However, unlike other Washington, D.C. car accident claims, a plaintiff’s claim that a dangerous road contributed to a crash is not filed against another motorist, but against the government entity responsible for designing or maintaining the road.

Washington, D.C. defective road claims may be based on several theories, including:

  • dangerous design of a road;

When a product is released for sale to the general public, the manufacturer of the product is responsible for ensuring that the product is safe for its intended use and does not present an unreasonable risk of injury. If someone is injured due to a product that suffers from a design defect, the injury victim can file a Washington, D.C. product liability claim against the manufacturer.

Typically, Maryland product liability claims are brought under the theory of strict liability, meaning that an injury victim does not need to prove that the manufacturer was negligent; only that the defectively designed product caused their injuries. However, certain exceptions to this general rule exist. A recent case involving a rented Bobcat light-construction vehicle discusses one of the more common exceptions.

According to the court’s opinion, a man rented a Bobcat skid-steer loader from a rental agency. The machine was an open-framed vehicle that was used for light construction and demolition tasks that could be fitted with hundreds of attachments, depending on the intended use of the machine. A door-kit was one of these add-ons.

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