Casinos can be a chaotic mix of adrenaline and alcohol. While a cultural staple of sportsmanship and skill, it is unsurprising that injuries often occur at casinos. The casino may be liable in some instances, but casino guests are also responsible for acting reasonably and taking precautions to ensure their safety, such as moderating alcohol consumption. When a guest under the influence is injured while on casino property, a required showing of causation may be absent due to the contributory factor of intoxication.
Lee Edminson suffered a traumatic brain injury after falling down an escalator at Harrah’s New Orleans Casino in the early hours of the morning. Edminson’s blood alcohol content at the time of the accident was over three times the legal limit in Louisiana. He brought suit against the casino, alleging negligence in the maintenance of the escalator. The cause of action of the premises liability claims was La. Civ. Code article 2322, damage caused by building ruin, and article 2317, acts of others and things in custody.
The trial court found in favor of the defendants on a motion for summary judgment. The court, therefore, held that there was no causation because of the intervening cause of Edminson’s extreme intoxication. The plaintiffs appealed that judgment because they felt there was a dispute of fact about whether the escalator created an unreasonably dangerous condition that was not open and obvious.
The elements required to show liability for an injury are: (1) was there a duty owed, (2) was that duty breached, and (3) the breach of duty caused the harm. For a business like a casino, the plaintiff must also show that the building defect was unreasonably dangerous and not an open and obvious hazard. Broussard v. State, 113 So. 3d 175, (La. 2013). Summary judgment is appropriate where there is no dispute of material fact in the record of evidence.
The lower court held that the escalator was an open and obvious condition that required no extra duty on the part of the casino to protect against injury. Additionally, the court found that the escalator was safe because it was up to date on all safety requirements. On review, there was no dispute in the record as to the causation or the open and obvious factor. In favor of the defendants was evidence in the record of video footage of people using the escalator without incident immediately before the plaintiff’s injury. Further, the plaintiff had been at the casino and used the escalator nearly 100 times in the past without incident. Summary judgment was therefore upheld in favor of the defendants.
Public businesses owe special duties to guests. It helps society to encourage companies to keep their premises safe and provide wrongly injured guests with a remedy. The court system provides a check on meritless negligence claims through the evidence system. Competent businesses keep records of their compliance with safety regulations. Businesses also have surveillance systems that make it harder for meritless claims to succeed.
Additional Sources: EDMISON V. CAESARS ENTM’T CO.
Written by Berniard Law Firm Blog Writer: Corrinne Yoder-Mulkey
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