Archive for the ‘Causation’ Category

And She’s Off . . . Literally – Woman Falls From Treadmill; Unable to Prove Cause (NY)

November 6, 2015

Photo by Jennifer C. (no changes made)

Davis v. Town Sports International (New York)
(not published)

The plaintiff a a member of the defendant health club and she regularly used the treadmills at the facility.  One day she fell while attempting to get on a treadmill, injuring herself.  She filed a negligence lawsuit against the defendant, and the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment.  the New York Supreme Court granted the motion finding that the defendant had established by the evidence (including the plaintiff’s own deposition testimony) that the plaintiff was unable to identify the cause of her fall, and that she could only speculate as to the cause.  Plaintiff was unable to raise any triable issues in opposition to the motion.  The Court further noted that even if it accepted the plaintiff’s speculation that another member had failed to turn off the machine prior to plaintiff attempting to use it, the Court noted that such a claim would be barred by the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk.

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Failure to Warn – Supreme Court Find Triable Issue Regarding School District’s Breach of Duty to Deceased Youth (WY)

October 21, 2015

Amos v. Lincoln County School District No. 2 (Wyoming)

A five-year-old boy was attending a basketball game at a school that had been converted to a community center.  He was playing with other children on a stage near the basketball court when a lunchroom bench tipped over and fell on top of him, causing a basal skull fracture and killing him instantly.  The lunchroom bench had been removed from the gymnasium wall and had been placed against the wall in a storage room adjacent to the stage.  A year later, the boy’s personal representative filed a wrongful death action against the school district, along with the town and county where the facility was located.

The county filed an “affidavit of noninvolvement” with the trial court in lieu of an answer.  In response, the trial court entered an order dismissing the county from the action without prejudice.  The court explained that it found that “there [were] not enough facts to show that [the county was] responsible but if facts come forward or are discovered that show that [the county was] responsible, either directly or indirectly, [the county] shall be reinstated as a Defendant.”

The school district filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that it had turned over possession and maintenance of the building to the community group such that it did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care and was, therefore, entitled to judgment as a matter of law.  The trial court denied the school district’s motion, holding: “Viewing these basic facts in a light most favorable to the Plaintiff, the School District, as the owner, is in the same position as a landlord is to its tenants and their invitees. As such, it owed all persons entering the building as invitees the duty of reasonable and ordinary care under the circumstances.”  Notwithstanding the ruling, the trial court did express concern that the facts may not ultimately establish a breach of the school district’s duty or that the district’s actions were the proximate cause of the incident.

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Wild Ride – Paraplegic Injured on Roller Coaster Loses Jury Verdict (CA)

July 2, 2015

Rogers v. Magic Mountain, LLC (California)

Plaintiff was involved in an accident in 1996, which caused him to suffer from paraplegia and related medical complications.  In 2010, he rode the X2 “4th Dimension” roller coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain, an amusement park in Valencia, California.  While on the ride, plaintiff suffered a fracture to his right femur.  Plaintiff did not feel the injury as a result of his paraplegia.  A few days later, his right leg was amputated after blood clotting blocked the flow of blood to his leg.  Plaintiff sued the amusement park and the ride manufacturer, alleging premises liability, general negligence and products liability.

The amusement park filed a motion for summary judgment, which was denied by the trial court.  The case continued, and a ten day jury trial ensued.  After trial, the jury issued a special verdict, finding that the amusement park was negligent, but that its negligence was not a substantial factor in causing harm to the plaintiff.  As to the ride manufacturer, the jury found that (1) the ride did not have potential risks that were known at the time of their design, manufacture and sale that would support a failure to warn claim, and (2) the design of the ride was a substantial factor in causing harm to the plaintiff, but that the risks of the ride did not outweigh the benefits of the design.  Therefore, the jury found that neither defendant had legal responsibility for the harm caused to the plaintiff.

Plaintiff appealed the decision contending that the special verdict was defective and the evidence was insufficient to support the special verdict.  However, the Court of Appeal disagreed and affirmed the judgment in favor of the defendants.  The Court noted that the plaintiff had not objected to the special verdict or any of its stipulated changes.  Regardless, the Court did not find any inconsistency, ambiguity, or unresolved issue in the special verdict.  Plaintiff complained that the jury had improperly allocated 100% fault to the plaintiff without first finding that the plaintiff was negligent.  However, the Court explained that the specific allocation of fault to the plaintiff was merely an “irregularity,” and not an “inconsistency.”  The jury had already determined that neither defendant’s was responsible (the park’s negligence did not cause the harm and the risk of the manufacturer’s design did not outweigh its benefits).  As a result, the Court noted that “it [did] not matter whether plaintiff was negligent or not — he [could not] recover from defendants.”  According to the Court, “the issues of negligence and causation were properly presented to the jury in the special verdict form.”  The Court was also convinced that “there was ample evidence from which the jury could properly conclude that [manufacturer] was unaware of potential risks at the time the X2 vehicles were designed.”

Feeling the Heat – Kids Gym Did Not Cause Burn Injury to Grandmother (NY)

June 1, 2015

Riccio v. Kid Fit, Inc. (New York)

It’s all fun and games until someone gets burned.  The plaintiff was attending her grandson’s birthday party at a kids gym facility.  She attempted to carry a chafing tray from a table to a nearby sink, and she was burned by the lit sterno cannister.  Plaintiff filed an action against the gym facility, and the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, which was granted by the trial court.

Plaintiff appealed, but the decision was affirmed by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.  First, the Court disagreed with the defendant concerning the application of the doctrine of primary assumption of risk.  The Court explained that the doctrine did not apply because “the plaintiff was not involved in a sporting event or a recreational activity when she allegedly was injured.”  Nonetheless, the Court affirmed the decision based on causation.

The Court noted that “[a]lthough the issue of proximate cause is generally for the jury, liability may not be imposed upon a party who merely furnishes the condition or occasion for the occurrence of the event but is not one of its causes.”  The employees of the defendant had “inadvertently disposed of the caps to the sterno cannisters prior to the accident,” but that “merely furnished the occasion for the accident, and any alleged negligence by the defendant did not proximately cause the accident.”  In conclusion, “[t]he plaintiff’s actions in carrying the lit sterno cannister so close to her body superseded the defendants’ conduct and terminated the defendants’ liability for her injuries.”