From Business to Lawsuits: When a Trip Takes a Wrong Turn

casino_game_play_argentina-1024x683Business trips can provide opportunities for networking and leisure, but unexpected injuries can turn the experience into a nightmare. One such example is the case of Jonathan Peters, who attended a business convention in New Orleans and stayed at Harrah’s Hotel.

Peters visited New Orleans for a business convention and stayed at Harrah’s Hotel. Around midnight, Peters exited the hotel to get something to eat. Peters walked on the hotel’s brick sidewalk as it was raining. When he began to slip, he moved to step on a hose to prevent himself from falling, yet he slipped and broke his wrist. After the fall, Peters underwent surgery at Tulane Medical Hospital, but this procedure did not rehabilitate him. Peters alleged he permanently lost the range of motion in his wrist.

Peters sued Jazz Casino and JCC Fulton Development, L.L.C. (“Jazz Casino”), the owners and operators of the hotel. Jazz Casino asked the lawsuit to be placed in the federal district court and filed a motion for summary judgment. The motion for summary judgment was granted. Unhappy with that decision, Peters appealed.

Peters argued in the appeal the district court erred in not finding a genuine issue of material fact concerning whether the hose was an unnecessary risk of harm. The Court should review the motion for summary judgment in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. The party bringing the action is allowed to summary judgment if they can prove no genuine issues are at play.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).

According to Louisiana Merchant Liability Statute, a merchant has a duty to keep his premises reasonably safe. For a plaintiff to prevail under this statute, the following elements must be met: (1) the condition created an unreasonable risk of harm that was reasonably foreseeable; (2) the merchant was aware of the condition; and (3) the merchant failed to exercise reasonable care. La. R.S. 9:2800.6A.

Under Louisiana law, the defendants had no duty to protect against an open and obvious hazard. The district court ruled that Peters failed to show the hose was an open and obvious hazard. Peter asserted his awareness of the hose was not significant enough to show the defect was open and obvious to all. Peters explained the accident occurred at night, so the hose was not visible to all. 

However, Peter offered no evidence to show the lighting was insufficient. Photos from the record showed adequate lighting. The hotel had lamps, streetlights, and more near its surroundings. However, Peters asserted the hose obstructed the sidewalk, which constituted an unreasonable risk of harm. This statement and what he stated at his deposition conflicted. When questioned at his deposition about whether the red hose could obstruct someone walking on the sidewalk, he responded: “I don’t recall that.” 

Peters contended the combination of the slippery walkway and the hose’s obstruction of the walkway created a dangerous and defective condition that caused him to fall. Peters relied on the opinion in Jones v. Stewart to support his argument. In Jones, the unreasonable risk of harm was a dark, incomplete, wet attic in a residence. The court explained although the darkness in the attic was obvious, the wetness of the attic was hidden by the darkness. Thus, the trial court held the condition was not open and obvious. 

Distinctive to Peter’s case, the court reasoned the evidence did not show the hose obstructed the walkway or not that walkway was unlit. Thus, there is no combination of conditions under these circumstances. Instead, the evidence established the condition of the sidewalk was open and obvious. 

The case of Peters vs. Jazz Casino and JCC Fulton Development, L.L.C. highlights the importance of providing solid evidence when making a claim. Despite Peters’ allegations of the hazardous condition of the hotel’s sidewalk, the court ruled in favor of the defendants due to a lack of proof. This case serves as a reminder for individuals to gather sufficient evidence and documentation when making a claim in court. Ultimately, it is essential to support any allegations with facts and evidence to increase the chances of a favorable outcome.


Written by Berniard Law Firm Blog Writer: Needum Lekia

Other Berniard Law Firm Articles on Slip and Fall Lawsuits in Louisiana: What do I need to Prove for A Slip and Fall Lawsuit in Louisiana?

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