Articles Posted in Slip and Fall Injuries

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)

44-Email-1024x723If injured at work, many people will turn to a lawyer to learn about the legal options and damages available to them. Yet, a good lawyer can do more than just obtain damages, such as negotiate with the employer to facilitate accommodations needed in order to return to work. 

Louisiana school teacher Dena Wempren was injured when a student pulled a chair out from under her, causing her to fall in a seated position. Ms. Wempren filed a “Disputed Claim for Compensation” which she later amended after being instructed by the School Board to return to work even though her pain management doctor had instructed otherwise. When a court-appointed doctor examined her, she was told she could return to work but only in a modified capacity. The School Board responded to the doctor’s findings by demanding she return to work, and Ms. Wempren was forced to comply or else lose some of her worker’s compensation. After returning to work, Ms. Wempren filed a third amended complaint when she felt her job demanded more than she was capable of given her injured condition.

At trial, the court looked at whether Ms. Wempren was able to work and if the School modified her work position enough to accommodate her injuries. The trial court sided with Ms. Wempren finding the job description Ms. Wempren was working under did not relay the physicality that would be required on the job, after she presented medical evidence which indicated she should not have returned to work without treatment. The School Board appealed the decision.

image-for-post-26-1024x791What’s wrong, Lassie? Did Timmy fall down the well in Red River Parish? No? It was John Cantu who fell in the well, because of someone’s negligence? Let’s let Louisiana’s Second Circuit Court of Appeal figure this one out.

John Cantu, a truck driver, made a delivery to a well site owned by Encana Oil & Gas and operated by Schlumberger in Red River Parish. Cantu had to climb up a short stairway to a Schlumberger trailer in order to have the delivery receipt signed. While attempting to climb up the staircase, he fell down a hole and injured himself. Cantu claimed the hole represented an unreasonable risk of harm and that Schlumberger had neglected to fix the hole. On October 2, 2013, after filing a lawsuit, Cantu settled with Schlumberger out of court; Cantu agreed to release Schlumberger from all liability following the accident in exchange for a cash settlement of $375,000. Following this settlement — which is also known as a compromise — Cantu and Schlumberger jointly filed a final motion to dismiss the case on October 24, 2013.

However, one day earlier, on October 23, 2013, Cantu had filed a supplement and amended petition in which he named Encana as a defendant. In his amended petition, Cantu alleged that Encana allowed a dangerous condition to exist at their drill/work site. On February 26, 2014 Encana sought dismissal on the theory that the trial court no longer had jurisdiction over the case because the filed order for dismissal by Cantu and Schlumberger had the effect of a final judgment; such a final judgment was not subject to alteration by the trial court. Encana cited the October 24 motion to dismiss as evidence that the case had been settled between Cantu and Schlumberger and had been dismissed by those parties. The trial court agreed with Encana and dismissed Cantu’s amended petition. Cantu then appealed this decision to the Second Circuit.

betting-casino-casino-machine-34201-1024x683Property owners have a responsibility to maintain safe conditions on their premises. However, if you are injured on someone’s property, there are still numerous elements you must prove in order to prevail on any lawsuit you may file for injuries arising from an unsafe premises. Establishing these elements can be especially challenging when you are injured from an activity that may be considered openly and obviously risky. This was this situation facing Mr. and Mrs. Marshall following Mrs. Marshall’s accident on an escalator at Jazz Casino in the Orleans Parish of Louisiana.  

Hyecha Marshall and her husband, Loyal, were frequent patrons of the Jazz Casino (“Casino”). Mrs. Marshall used a small wheelchair that the Casino provided her as a walker and cart. While walking in an underground tunnel connecting her hotel to the Casino, Mrs. Marshall discovered the elevator was out of service. Therefore, she decided to step onto the escalator, using her wheelchair as a walker. While riding the escalator, she lost her balance and fell to the floor. Her wheelchair subsequently fell down the escalator onto her. 

After Mr. and Mrs. Marshall filed a lawsuit against the Casino alleging that the Casino failed to warn about the risks of using the Casino-issued wheelchair as a walker and failing to maintain safe premises, the Casino moved for summary judgment. The Casino argued that Mrs. Marshall had not shown that there was an unreasonably dangerous condition in the Casino that caused her accident. Additionally, the Casino argued it did not have a duty to warn Mrs. Marshall about using its wheelchair as a walker while riding the escalator because the risk of injury was obvious and apparent. Summary judgment is appropriate when all the submitted pleadings and evidence show that there is no genuine issue of material fact. La. C.C.P. art. 966. The trial court granted the Casino’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the Marshalls’ lawsuit because it found that Mrs. Marshall had not established the Casino owed her a duty, which was an essential element of her negligence action. 

architectural-design-architecture-country-home-2287310-1024x700When customers slip and fall at a store, they expect to be able to recover for their injuries. However, recovery can become complicated when multiple parties were involved in maintaining the premises, such as when the store outsources with another company to provide maintenance services at the store. 

Mr. Terry Collins and his wife Lainie Collins (the Plaintiffs) filed a lawsuit against Home Depot in Gretna, Louisiana and ISS Facility Services, Inc. (the Defendants) after Mr. Collins slipped and fell on a liquid on the floor in a lumber aisle at the store. On the day of the accident, maintenance workers from ISS Facility Services were operating a floor cleaning machine near the site of the accident. 

Home Depot filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming that the Collins could not satisfy the required burden of proof for claims against merchants in showing that Home Depot had either created, or had notice of the liquid substance that allegedly caused the accident. See La. R.S. 9:2800.6. The trial court granted Home Depot’s motion for summary judgment, stating that ISS was an independent contractor, so that Home Depot had not created the alleged dangerous condition. Furthermore, the Collins had not provided sufficient proof that Home Depot had actual or constructive notice of the alleged dangerous condition. 

art-close-up-costume-1144283-1024x683A Mardi Gras Ball can be an exciting and fun event; however, when someone is injured, the mood turns from festive to fearful. If you were the one injured, from whom do you recover your damages? Can you even recover? If you are the organization, are you insured? Who will bear the cost associated with the injury? For an organization, having a strong insurance contract from the beginning can work to alleviate these concerns and many others.  

 Ms. Clesi had attended a Mardi Gras Ball at the Pontchartrain Center when she sustained injuries resulting from a fall. She then filed suit against The City of Kenner (“the City”) and Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s of London (“Lloyd’s”). The underlying case is pending. The City proceeded to file for damages against The Krewe of Argus (“Argus”). The City alleged that there was a Use License Agreement between it and Argus, which required Argus to obtain an insurance policy from Lloyd’s for the use of the Pontchartrain Center for its Mardi Gras Ball. The City claimed that it was entitled to protection under the insurance policy in the same way Argus was. If the City’s claim was correct, Lloyd’s would be forced to defend the City against Ms. Clesi’s damages claims. Further, the City seeks reimbursement from the attorney fees and other costs associated with defending Ms. Clesi’s suit.

The trial court found in favor of the City. An appeal followed. Defendant appellants argued that the court must further interpret the indemnification provision of the Use License Agreement so that there could be a determination of the scope of Lloyd’s duty to defend the City.   

addiction-betting-casino-5258-1024x684Providing preferential seating to disabled customers is a great service most businesses provide. This also means that the wheelchairs, walkers, and other items the disabled customers must be stored in areas that provide a safe walking environment for other customers. The controversy surrounding where it is proper or improper to put these items was illustrated in a case where a Baton Rouge Casino was sued by a woman who tripped over the walker of a disabled customer. With the help of an excellent attorney, the Casino was able to prove it seated a disabled gentleman properly when the woman sued the casino after her fall.

73-year-old Elvera Willig was eating dinner a Baton Rouge Casino, the L’Auberge Casino & Hotel (“the Casino”) on New Year’s Day 2014. While making her 4th trip back from the buffet, she tripped and fell over an unidentified man’s walker that was slightly sticking into the pathway. As a result of the fall, Ms. Willig fractured her hip.

It was later determined that the unidentified man was directed to the seat by an employee of the Casino. Ms. Willig brought a lawsuit against the Casino. In the lawsuit, she claimed that the Casino was negligent and failed to protect guests; the Casino was negligent and sat the patron inappropriately close to the walkway; and the Casino negligently sat the unidentified man and his walker in a place where other customers could trip on the walker.

64-Picutre-05-22-2019We have a reasonable expectation that public shopping areas will be free from dangerous hazards. Most stores even have policies regarding safety procedures. However, these safety procedures are not allows followed and injuries often result. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened to Michelle Gauthier while shopping at a Dollar Tree Store.

Ms. Gauthier was shopping in a Dollar Tree Store located on Airline Drive in Bossier City, Louisiana. While walking through the store, she noticed boxes left on the floor throughout each aisle for restocking purposes. Ms. Gauthier walked down one of the isles, reached for a product on the shelf, and then took a step back. As she did so, her foot got caught on one of the box corners causing her to slip and hit her neck on the shelf in front of her. 

Ms. Gauthier filed for damages against Dollar Tree Store. Dollar Tree responded by filing a motion for summary judgment, a motion to dismiss the case, on the grounds that the box was plainly visible and did not create an unreasonably dangerous condition. The trial court ultimately found for Dollar Tree because Ms. Gauthier had seen the other boxes. Therefore, the trial court found it was reasonable to assume that Ms. Gauthier had seen the box which she tripped on. On appeal, the appellate court reversed the trial court’s finding and remanded the case for further proceedings.

chairs-menu-restaurant-6267-1024x683When in a restaurant, one expects the kitchen and the dining room to be clean, and it is the restaurant’s duty to uphold that expectation. However, in a busy restaurant someone could accidentally spill a drink, and it does not get cleaned up because the wait staff did not know about the spill. In an instance of a trip-and-fall on an unknown substance, is the restaurant liable for injuries? This is an issue the State of Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal recently decided.

Cheryl Tate, her husband, and two of their friends decided to dine out at an Outback Steakhouse in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on September 21, 2012. Upon their arrival, they were immediately greeted by the hostess and led to their seats. However, after taking two or three steps towards their table, Mrs. Tate claims she slipped and fell on an unknown clear liquid that she did not see before she fell. After her fall, Mrs. Tate brought a lawsuit against Outback Steakhouse in the 19th Central District Court of Louisiana for damages pertaining to injuries she allegedly sustained from her slip and fall at the restaurant. However, after the discovery was complete, the Court dismissed the case on the grounds that Mrs. Tate could not meet her burden of proof that Outback Steakhouse had actual or constructive knowledge of the clear liquid Mrs. Tate alleges that she slipped on. Following this decision, Mrs. Tate decided to appeal the decision to the State of Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal.

In this appeal, the Court of Appeal is charged with determining if the summary judgement of the lower court is appropriate. According to La. C.C.P. art. 966(B)(2), “summary judgement is appropriate only if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions, together with any affidavits, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the mover is entitled to judgement as a matter of law.” This means that Mrs. Tate has to prove that she could be able to fulfill her evidentiary burden of proof at trial. The lower court granted summary judgement in favor of Outback Steakhouse because the court believed Ms. Tate could not meet this burden and therefore there was no genuine issue to be tried. However, on appeal the court must determine if this decision aligns with the law outlined in LA. R.S. 9:2800.6.

aisle-buy-cart-811105-683x1024When a customer is injured in a slip and fall on a wet supermarket floor there are some situations where the supermarket is held responsible. Other times, there are situations where the supermarket is not at fault and the accident is chalked up to bad luck. Where that line is drawn is determined by what the supermarket knew or should have known about the dangerous condition. When is a slip and fall the Supermarkets fault?

Patricia Guillaume was shopping in a Super One Foods in Shreveport. While in the produce aisle she slipped and fell on water that had pooled on the floor. She was injured and an EMS team took Ms. Guillaume to the hospital where she was treated. Ms. Guillaume then brought a lawsuit, alleging that Super One was negligent by allowing the water that caused her fall to pool on the floor. After a bench trial, the Trial Court ruled in favor of Super One Foods. The Trial Court determined that Ms. Guillaume did not prove that the water was on the floor for a period of time long enough to give Super One Foods constructive notice of the danger and was not negligent.

There are three elements an injured party needs to prove for a negligence claim to be successful against a merchant. La. R.S. 9:2800.6. First, that there was a risk of harm that was not reasonable and that it was foreseeable that harm could be caused. Second, the store either knew about the condition or created the condition. The knowledge of the condition can be actual or constructive knowledge. Third, the plaintiff needs to prove that the merchant did not exercise care that was reasonable. All three of these elements need to be proven for a successful case. White v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 699 So. 2d 1081 (La. Ct. App. 1997). If a plaintiff fails to prove any of the three elements then the case fails. Rowell v. Hollywood Casino Shreveport, 996 So. 2d 476 (La. Ct. App. 2008).