Plaintiff’s Procedural Mistake Results in Dismissal of Premises Liability Case

Earlier this month, a Rhode Island appellate court issued a written opinion affirming the dismissal of a plaintiff’s premises liability lawsuit based on the fact that he initially failed to provide the correct date of the injury and then failed to attend a hearing on the defendant’s motion to dismiss. In the case, Santos v. Laikos, the court held that there were no extenuating circumstances excusing the plaintiff’s failure to object or attend the hearing, so dismissal was proper.

The Facts of the Case

Back on April 30, 2011, the plaintiff was injured in what he described as a “melee” that occurred at the defendant’s bar. Just short of three years later, on April 18, 2014, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the owners of the bar. However, in his complaint, the plaintiff mistakenly claimed that the incident occurred on November 4, 2010.

Rhode Island has a three-year statute of limitations in premises liability cases, and so the defendant electronically filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the statute of limitations had run by the time the plaintiff filed the lawsuit. The defendant also mailed a copy of the motion to the plaintiff. The court scheduled a hearing on the defendant’s motion, but the plaintiff failed to appear. The court granted the defendant’s motion.

The plaintiff’s attorney filed a motion to vacate the dismissal of his case, arguing that she never received a copy of the motion, and had she received a copy she would have attended the hearing because it was clear that the statute had not run and that the wrong date was listed on the complaint. She also claimed that she was prepared to provide evidence that the motion was not received through the mail. However, the court “didn’t buy” the proffered reasons and denied the motion to vacate.

On Appeal, the Plaintiff Is Unsuccessful

The appellate court was unsympathetic to the plaintiff’s claims. Generally speaking, the decision to grant relief of this type is a discretionary decision that resides with the lower court. Procedurally, the court explained that only when there was excusable neglect would a court be required to grant the motion to vacate. Under these circumstances, no excusable neglect was present. The court noted that the electronic filing system, although newly implemented, was very thorough and has since become required for all filings. The only reason given by the plaintiff’s attorney was that she did not receive the motion, and this, by itself, was insufficient.

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

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of Washington, D.C. accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, it is crucial that you work with a diligent and experienced premises liability attorney who will keep you and your best interests at heart throughout the process. It may not seem fair, but an attorney’s mistake can cost their client dearly, and that is why at Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers we focus our practice on getting to know our clients and their diverse needs. Call 410-654-3600 today to set up a free consultation to discuss your case.

More Blog Posts:

Determining Fault in Multi-Party Washington, D.C. Accidents, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, June 9, 2016

Motions for Summary Judgment in Washington, D.C. Courts, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, May 9, 2016

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