Home Court Disadvantage

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Galaxy Cable, Inc. v. Davis (Alabama)
(11-year-old playing basketball at a friend’s house tripped over a guy wire maintained by a cable company; liability found for the cable company due to a missing yellow cable guard, but lower court’s ruling as to punitive damaged overturned.)

An 11-year-old boy tripped over a guy cable attached to a telephone pole while retrieving a basketball, lacerating his leg. The minor (through his parents) sued the cable company (among others) for creating a dangerous condition and failing to remedy the condition. A plastic yellow guard that wrapped around the guy cable and provided a visible warning of the cable had been moved, and the cable company had failed to replace or fix the condition despite having routinely inspected the pole. The defendant cable company argued that the condition was open and obvious, but the trial court found in favor of the plaintiff, awarding compensatory damages and punitive damages. The defendant appealed, and ultimately the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling of liability, but overturned the determination of punitive damages due to a lack of evidence establishing “wantonness.”

NOTE: Much of the discussion revolves around whether the plaintiff was an invitee on the premises where the incident occurred. The plaintiff was on land belonging to another, which land was the subject of an easement in favor of the defendant. The parties never agreed on plaintiff’s legal status and the court determined that the defendant had waived the issue as to whether it owed the plaintiff a specialized duty at trial.

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