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.
The plaintiff went home after lunch. The next morning, the plaintiff’s body was numb, and she could not use her arms or legs. She was admitted to the hospital for six days, where she was diagnosed with paralysis and related injuries to her spine. Since the spider’s venom reached her spinal cord, the plaintiff sustained permanent damage to her left side.
The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the restaurant, claiming that it was negligent in failing to warn customers of the dangers presented by the spiders or take some kind of remedial action. The restaurant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that it did not have a duty to protect the plaintiff from spiders because there had been no reported sightings of venomous spiders. The restaurant also claimed that, even if it did owe the plaintiff a limited duty, the restaurant fulfilled that duty. Finally, the restaurant argued that the costs of taking the actions requested by the plaintiff would outweigh any potential benefit.
The court disagreed with the defendant and permitted the plaintiff’s case to proceed. The court explained that the existence of venomous spiders is within the “common experience,” and restaurant owners should expect that they may encounter these pests, especially in outdoor dining environments. It was not unreasonable, the court held, to expect that a restaurant would take some action to control the population of venomous spiders. Thus, the court determined that the plaintiff’s case, as a matter of law, would be sufficient to sustain a jury verdict in her favor, and therefore the case should not be dismissed.
Have You Been Injured While Dining at a Restaurant?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured while dining at a Washington, D.C. restaurant, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Washington, D.C. premises liability lawsuit. The dedicated Washington, D.C. personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC are experienced in bringing all types of premises liability cases, including slip-and-fall accidents and animal attacks. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with an attorney today.
More Blog Posts:
Court Applies “Sudden Emergency Doctrine” in Recent Truck Accident Case, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, July 17, 2018
Liability in Washington, D.C. Amusement Park Accidents, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, July 3, 2018