Earlier this month, an appellate court in Florida issued a written opinion in a premises liability case that presented an issue that often comes up in Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall cases. The issue the court needed to decide was whether the defendant landowner could be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries when there was no evidence suggesting the landowner knew of the hazard that caused the plaintiff’s fall. The court determined that the landowner could not be held liable under the facts presented, and it dismissed the plaintiff’s case.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was visiting a BBQ stand that was located on the property of a sports club. After she had finished eating, the plaintiff was leaving when she slipped and fell on a patch of grease that had spilled onto the sidewalk.
The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against both the sports club that owned the property as well as the county that was responsible for maintaining the public sidewalk. The plaintiff’s theory was that the sports club was negligent for failing to empty the grease trap, which resulted in the grease spilling onto the sidewalk, and the county was negligent in failing to clean up the grease.
The case proceeded to a jury trial, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, finding each of the two defendants 50% at fault and the plaintiff 0% at fault. The county filed a post-trial motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, arguing that there was no evidence that the county knew or should have known that the grease hazard existed. The court denied the county’s motion, and the county appealed to a higher court.
The appellate court reversed the lower court’s decision not to grant the county’s post-trial motion. The court reasoned that a premises liability plaintiff must establish either that the defendant landowner actually knew of the hazard causing her fall or that they had constructive knowledge of the hazard.
The court explained that constructive knowledge can be shown by proving that the hazard occurred with such frequency that the landowner should be aware of its presence. In this case, the plaintiff presented photographs of the area where she fell, showing that the pavement was discolored. The plaintiff argued that the discoloration was caused by frequent grease spills and that this should have put the county on notice of the hazard. The court disagreed, noting that there was no evidence showing what caused the discoloration.
As a result, the jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiff was reversed insofar as it related to the county. The verdict against the sports club was unaffected by the court’s decision.
Have You Been Injured on Another Party’s Property?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you sustained. The dedicated Washington, D.C. personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience helping victims file and litigate their claims for damages against the parties responsible for their injuries. We help clients in all kinds of Washington, D.C. personal injury matters, including slip-and-fall accidents. Call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.
More Blog Posts:
Court Permits Premises Liability Case to Proceed over Defense Summary Judgment Motion, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, October 24, 2017
Medical Malpractice Plaintiff’s Case Dismissed for Lack of Expert Testimony, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, November 9, 2017