Articles Posted in Slip and Fall Injuries

grocery-cart-with-item-1005638-768x1024Slip and Fall lawsuits commonly arise in the grocery store or restaurant setting.  And in such cases, Louisiana’s statute on merchant liability apprises merchants of how they could be found liable for any resulting injuries.  What happens however when a person falls and injures themselves in a commercial but non-merchant location? Are these lawsuits analyzed under general negligence law?  A recent case involving a hospital in Lake Charles provided an entirely separate standard.           

Ronnaesa Reider was visiting Christus St. Patrick Hospital in Lake Charles, Louisiana when she slipped on an unknown substance and sustained a knee injury.   Just prior to Ms. Reider’s fall, Jamon Thomas, an employee of Hospital Housekeeping Systems, LLC (“HHS”), used a scrubber machine on the floor where Ms. Reider fell.  Ms. Reider alleged that the machine left water and cleaning fluid on the floor causing Ms. Reider’s fall. Mr. Thomas testified that he noticed a wet streak on the floor and concluded his machine must have failed to dry up the liquid.  However, an unidentified person also stepped on the alleged wet spot just five seconds prior to Ms. Reider and he did not fall.   

Ms. Reider filed a lawsuit against HHS and the Hospital alleging negligence in allowing the liquid to remain on the floor and for failing to warn about the liquid’s presence. Ms. Reider filed a motion for summary judgment against HHS asserting that HHS was completely at fault for the fall.  In support, she included video surveillance showing the scrubber machine in the area just prior to her fall. She also included her own deposition testimony as well as Mr. Thomas’ deposition. In response, HHS asserted the video only showed a clean, clear hallway and that there were inconsistencies in all of the depositions.  Specifically, portions of Mr. Thomas’ deposition asserted there was no liquid at all on the floor. Ms. Reider further provided conflicting accounts of the amount of water on the floor: ranging from a few droplets to a five foot streak.  

person-grilling-sausage-and-meat-1857732-1-1024x683The interests of justice are best served when the evidence in a lawsuit is new. This is because any potential witnesses can corroborate or deny evidence presented at trial with a fresh memory of the events or documents. Personal injury cases in Louisiana follow this principle with a one year deadline called the peremptory exception of prescription. A recent lawsuit between New Orleans family members demonstrated the value of having an excellent attorney who knows when these deadlines begin to run.

On April 20, 2014, Cynthia Dent attended an Easter party at Genevieve Willis Dent’s home in New Orleans. While walking in the backyard, Ms. Dent stepped into a hole. This hole was covered by outdoor carpet and was not visible. As a result of the accident, Cynthia Dent experienced pain and swelling in her left foot and ankle. Two days later, on April 22, 2014, Cynthia Dent went to the doctor for x-rays and eventually found out that she broke her left foot.

One year and three days after the original accident and one year and one day after her diagnosis, on April 23, 2015, Ms. Dent filed a lawsuit against Genevieve Dent and Genevieve’s home insurance company, State Farm Fire and Casualty Company. In response, Genevieve Dent and her insurance carrier filed a peremptory exception of prescription. This peremptory exception of prescription is used by defendants for a variety of reasons, which basically argues that there is no legal remedy for the plaintiff’s alleged injury because the lawsuit was brought too late. In Genevieve Dent’s case, she raised the peremptory exception of prescription because Cynthia Dent filed her lawsuit past the one year deadline. The Trial Court held a hearing on the peremptory exception of prescription and agreed with Genevieve’s argument. The lawsuit was dismissed. Cynthia Dent then appealed.

two-person-doing-surgery-inside-room-1250655-1024x683Workers’ compensation programs may provide you with some relief for an injury. However, it is important to note that depending on your recovery and other factors, you could be taken off such programs. This is because legislators want people to work if they are able. Though many people who depend on workers’ compensation programs truly deserve it, some people abuse the system. 

Lisa Tassin was a registered nurse at Touro Infirmary (“Touro”). Unfortunately, while moving an operating room table, she fell and landed on her tailbone, causing injuries to her lower back. Prior to this accident, Tassin was involved in two car accidents that resulted in chronic neck pain. Because of her work-related accident, she received temporary total disability benefits (“TTDs”) from Touro. 

Tassin was treated and examined by a slew of doctors. Though the doctors agreed that Tassin’s pain was genuine, they disagreed whether the origin of her pain was the work-related injury or her prior car accidents. Five years after the accident, Tassin filed a Disputed Claim for Compensation against Touro because Touro reduced her TTDs to supplemental earnings benefits (“SEBs”). Touro claimed that Tassin was no longer disabled and could earn wages equal to those before her work-related injury. The matter was taken to a workers’ compensation judge who found that Tassin was no longer entitled to TTDs because she was unable to show that she was incapable of any employment. Furthermore, the judge ruled that she was also not entitled to SEBs because she could work in other health care positions if she had not let her nursing license lapse. 

sign-slippery-wet-caution-4341-1024x683Slip and fall cases can have a bad reputation. You know the scenario: Person A slips while on Person B’s floor and sues Person B for everything he has. Oftentimes in this scenario, Person A barely got hurt and may have been able to take steps to have helped prevent the injury. While there are some cases like this that make us ask why people are even allowed to sue in this scenario, there are also cases where people get seriously injured and need to be made whole again. These cases also show that those who allow others onto their property or premises have different responsibilities to ensure that the conditions are reasonably safe. Maintaining these responsibilities is essential so that people can go to these places with the expectation that they can enjoy the premises without worrying if the conditions are hazardous. One example is a slip and fall case that was filed in the 22nd Judicial District Court in Washington Parish, Louisiana.

Grady Wayne Bryant was in a Popeye’s parking lot when he slipped on grease while stepping off the curb. He and his wife filed a lawsuit against the restaurant’s company, Premium Food Concepts, Inc. and its insurer, State Farm Fire and Casualty Company. The company denied the Bryant’s allegations and filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming that the Bryants could not show that Popeye’s created the grease that caused the accident or that Popeye’s had constructive knowledge of the grease. The District Court decided that the Bryants could not meet their burden of proof under the Louisiana Merchant Liability Statute and granted the motion for summary judgment. The Bryants appealed to the Court of Appeal for the First Circuit.

What is a motion for summary judgment? When a party files a motion for summary judgment, they are asking for the case to be decided as a matter of law, rather than on the merits. La. C.C.P. art. 966. The party that files the motion—called the mover—does not have to disprove all the elements of the other party’s claim. Instead, the mover just has to show that at least one element is factually weak. Then the non-moving party has the burden to show that the element actually has factual support. If the non-moving party cannot meet this burden, then there is no genuine issue of material fact and summary judgment is granted.

close-up-court-courthouse-hammer-534204-1024x569After a hard fought jury trial, an appeal can be expected. But, what cannot be anticipated is a transcribing error by the court that renders the judgment as invalid and makes any appeal impossible. Excellent attorneys can catch errors by other parties and avoid multiple extra steps before a lawsuit can be resolved. That was the case here as mismatching damage award classification labels extended a lawsuit well beyond its anticipated end.

Willie Brown, Jr., was a customer at the Silver’s Casino in Breaux Bridge. After a power outage at the casino and at the direction of an employee of the Casino, Mr. Brown tripped over a sidewalk while he was entering the premises. Mr. Brown suffered injuries to his right knee, left shoulder, and also his head.

Mr. Brown saw a doctor for his injuries and was diagnosed with a cervical disc issue. The doctor recommended surgery to repair the injuries and estimated that the surgery would cost $85,000. Mr. Brown also saw a doctor at the request of Silver’s Casino and received a much lower medical cost estimate. Silver’s doctor suggested that Mr. Brown did not need surgery and instead only needed an injection for pain that would cost $1,000.

branding-buy-city-264636-1024x683Injuries arise in many unexpected ways and locations, even from a trip to the local grocery store. Sometimes this occurs due to a patron’s own clumsiness. Regardless, a grocery store may still be responsible for injuries if the store was negligent, or did not take reasonable actions to fix a known danger. For one Gretna woman, however, the Louisiana Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed a ruling by the 24th Judicial District Court Parish of Jefferson holding that the grocery store had no responsibility for her injuries.

Around 5:00 P.M. one evening in May, Tami Luft headed to the local Winn-Dixie on Belle Chasse Highway and Wall Boulevard to purchase chips and bread. After she picked up her chips, Ms. Luft made her way to the bread section when she suddenly tripped on a piece of plastic that supported a bottom shelf in the chip aisle. The store manager, Mr. Lollis, helped Ms. Luft up, she finished her shopping, and then she went home. Nearly a year later in April, Ms. Luft filed a lawsuit against Winn-Dixie, claiming negligence for creating the hazardous condition that caused her injuries. The district court ruled in favor of Winn-Dixie, so Ms. Luft appealed to the Court of Appeal which affirmed the ruling.

To sue for negligence resulting from injury on a merchant’s property, Ms. Luft had to prove three elements under Louisiana law. La. R.S.9:2800.6(B). First, there had to be “an unreasonable risk of harm” that was also “reasonably foreseeable.” Second, Winn-Dixie had to either have created or “had actual or constructive notice of the condition which caused the damage” before the accident occurred. Third, Winn-Dixie had to fail in exercising “reasonable care.” Here, Ms. Luft had the burden of proof, meaning that to win her case she needed to prove each element. For Winn-Dixie to win the case, it only needed to refute one element. The element Winn-Dixie focused on was the second, claiming that the store neither created nor had actual or constructive notice of the danger posed to Ms. Luft by the plastic support.

21-card-game-black-jack-blackjack-1871508-1024x644In order to successfully handle a lawsuit addressing the duty a business has to its patrons, an injured party should know that under Louisiana’s duty-risk analysis the main questions are: (1) whether a duty was owed; (2) whether that duty was breached; and (3) whether the breach caused the patron’s harm. Additionally, for a lawsuit in which the premises of the building are alleged to be dangerous, the plaintiff must prove that the building defect in question was “unreasonably dangerous.” Broussard v. State ex. Rel Office of State Buildings, 113 So.3d 175 (La. 2013).

A skilled attorney, and a successful injured party, will also be aware of how to win a motion for summary judgment (or survive the other party’s request for summary judgment). A motion for summary judgment is granted when there is no genuine issue as to material fact and a judgment as a matter of law is appropriate. La. C.C.P. art. 966. This essentially means that the dispute does not hinge on determining whether facts are true or false, but instead hinges on whether elements of the law have been met using the facts that both parties agree to be true.

On February 12, 2015, Lee Edmison fell down an escalator at Harrah’s New Orleans Casino and sustained severe injuries. Mr. Edmison’s blood alcohol content was 0.244 at the time of injury, three times Louisiana’s legal limit for driving. Mr. Edmison brought a lawsuit against Caesars Entertainment, the owner of Harrah’s, and Schindler, the manufacturer and servicer of the escalator.

28-Email-06_24_19-picturePublic entities are treated as private entities when it comes to slip and fall situations. They must abide by a liability standard when a customer or employee slip and fall on their premises. The standard gives the public entity responsibility for things that they control. The standard is similar to the standard used in cases of slip and fall. In this case, the court considered whether a slip and fall on a public entity’s premises can lead to liability. 

  The Grotes were at a conference at the River Center Convention Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana when Mrs. Grote tripped and fell on an elevation of one inch between two concrete walkway near the entrance of the River Center. After the incident, the Grotes filed a petition for damages against SMG, Federal Insurance Co., and the City of Baton Rouge. They argued that the defendants were liable for damages from the injury. The Grotes then filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the defect in the sidewalk was unreasonably dangerous. After the Grotes’ summary judgment, the City filed a summary judgment stating that the sidewalk was not unreasonably dangerous and was open and obvious. 

In cases of slip and falls with a public entity, a motion for summary judgment is properly granted if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions show that there are no genuine issues as to material fact and that the mover is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The mover bears the burden of proving that he is entitled to summary judgment. He has the responsibility to demonstrate the absence of factual support for one or more essential elements of his opponent’s claim. La. C.C.P. art. 966. If the mover fails to prove his burden, the burden never shifts to the adverse party, and the mover is not entitled to summary judgment. LeBlanc v. Bouchereau Oil Co., Inc., 15 So. 3d 152 (La. Ct. App. 2009).

up-and-down-the-stairs-1254204-1024x743Although many people are aware that merchants are required to keep their premises reasonably safe, it can be complicated to establish what exactly constitutes unreasonable risk. 

While on a shopping trip at the Mall of Louisiana, Hermina Lavergne, her daughter, and her granddaughter, stopped at BJ’s Restaurant (“BJ’s”) to eat. As the group was being escorted to their table, Lavergne fell down several steps, severely injuring her right foot. The host had advised Lavergne’s daughter and granddaughter to watch their step; however, Lavergne did not hear the warning herself because she was reading the restaurant’s menu as she walked. 

Lavergne filed a lawsuit to recover damages, alleging that Lavergne was injured due to a lack of adequate lighting and a lack of warning about the steps. The trial court found that the steps presented an unreasonable risk of harm, but also found that Lavergne failed to exercise reasonable care as she walked to the table. BJ’s appealed the finding, arguing that the step was not unreasonably dangerous.

54Slip and falls are one of the most common accidents in the United States.  Though some slip and falls may only lead to a sense of embarrassment, others can lead to permanent and serious damage to the body. Thus, it makes sense that an establishment owner should ensure that his or her establishment is safe. However, it is also important that people who visit an establishment should be responsible and not behave recklessly. In order to achieve this through law, Louisiana has an “open and obvious” doctrine, which states that an establishment is not responsible for people who were injured due to an open and obvious defect at the establishment. 

While out for some exercise at the Acadiana Mall in Lafayette, Wilson Trahan slipped and fell on a sidewalk, fracturing his right fibula. Trahan apparently slipped on a buildup of algae while trying to avoid a surface of water on the sidewalk. Trahan sued Acadiana Mall, but the district court dismissed his lawsuit. Trahan appealed, and the Court of Appeal ordered the district court to retake Trahan’s case for further proceedings. However, the district court ruled in favor of Acadiana Mall, holding that the algae buildup was open and obvious and that Trahan did not have a legitimate claim. Trahan appealed once more to the Third Circuit Court of Appeal, arguing that the district court erred in using the open and obvious doctrine to rule in favor of Acadiana Mall. 

Under Louisiana law, an owner or custodian is responsible for a thing under his or her control and that an owner or custodian is responsible for any damage that the thing causes due to the negligence of the owner or custodian. La. C.C. art. 2317.1. For a plaintiff to successfully prove their claim, he or she must show: (1) that the defendant owned the thing that caused the damage; (2) that the thing had a defect and presented an unreasonable risk of harm; (3) that the defendant should have known about the defect; (4) that the defect could have been prevented if the defendant had taken reasonable care; and (5) that the defendant did not take reasonable care. Riggs v. Opelousas Gen. Hosp. Trust Auth., 997 So.2d 814 (La. App. Ct. 2008). However, if the defect is open and obvious, there is not an unreasonable risk of harm. Broussard v. State ex rel. Office of State Bldgs., 113 So.3d 175 (La. 2013)