Student Loses Slip-and-Fall Against School for Failing to Prove School’s Negligence

Earlier this year, the Wyoming Supreme Court heard a case brought by an eighth-grade student against her middle school. The student, who slipped and fell while changing after a mandatory swimming class, claimed that the school was negligent “in the operation and maintenance” of the school’s locker room, where the accident occurred. After the fall, the girl was diagnosed with disc herniation in her lumbar spine and had to undergo three corrective surgeries as a result.

According to court documents, the girl pointed to the inadequate draining in the shower area as evidence of the school’s negligence. Evidently, the drain was backing up, and water from the shower area spilled over into the changing area, where the girl slipped as she approached a friend to borrow a comb.

The School’s Response to the Lawsuit

In response to the allegations brought forth by the girl, the school claimed that it was not negligent in failing to maintain a safe locker room. Specifically, the school claimed that it could not be held liable for the dangerous condition (the slippery floor) because it had no notice that the condition existed in the first place. Alternatively, the school claimed that it was immune from suit under local Wyoming law.

The Trial Court’s Ruling

The trial court agreed with the school under its first argument and didn’t need to determine whether the school was immune from suit in the first place. Specific to the notice issue, the court held that while “failure to comprehend and recognize danger may in itself constitute negligence,” the dangerous condition was not so obvious as to warrant ignorance of the condition negligence on the part of the school.

The court also concluded that, given the fact that the accident took place after a gym class where all the girls were showering, it was not unreasonable to expect some water to be on the floor. The court found in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed.

The Appellate Court Affirms the Ruling

Since the issue had been decided by the lower court already, the standard of review was a difficult one to meet for the plaintiff. She had to prove that the previous court’s findings were “clearly erroneous.” She was unable to do so.

The court began its analysis by noting that, in general, landowners must “use ordinary care to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition, and protect visitors against known dangers and dangers that are discoverable by use of reasonable care.” Here, the court held that the evidence suggesting the extent of the water on the floor, as well as the knowledge of the condition by the school, were both disputed. Given that there was a dispute as to the facts, the lower court’s analysis was not “clearly erroneous.”

Have You Been Injured While on the Property of Another?

If you have recently been injured in any kind of slip-and-fall accident in the Washington DC area, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for your injuries. While the case described above took place in Wyoming, similar laws apply in Maryland regarding slip-and-fall accidents. Chief among the issues a plaintiff must prove at trial to succeed are that the dangerous condition existed and that the defendant knew about it. To speak to a dedicated Maryland personal injury attorney about your case, call 410-654-3600 today to set up a free initial consultation.

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