Archive for the ‘Comparative Fault’ Category

Dressed for the Occasion – Wedding Reception Guests Pour Soap and Water on Dance Floor; Hotel Potentially Liable for Slip and Fall (Puerto Rico)

May 19, 2015

Blomquist v. Horned Dorset Primavera (Puerto Rico)
(unpublished trial court disposition)

Plaintiff was attending the wedding of a friend in Puerto Rico.  At some point during the reception, she left to change into a bathing suit as some of the guests were going to use the hotel’s pool.  While plaintiff was gone, other wedding guests poured water and soap onto the dance floor and used the dance floor to dance, slip, and slide on the wet soapy surface.  Plaintiff returned from changing and she slipped and fell on the wet, soapy dance floor, suffering personal injury.  Plaintiff sued the hotel, contending that the hotel failed to maintain the dance floor in a safe condition and failed to warn her of the dangerous condition that caused her to fall.  Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the wedding guests (including plaintiff) created the allegedly dangerous condition and that there was not enough time for defendant to discovery or stop the “self-inflicted hazard.”

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Big Bag of Beads – New Orleans Krewe Not Liable for Injury to Parade Attendee (LA)

May 18, 2015

Citron v. Gentilly Carnival Club Inc. (Louisiana)

The plaintiff was a long time member the defendant Endymion Krewe, a carnival organization that hosted parades and events in New Orleans.  Her and her husband attended a parade and extravaganza event hosted by Endymion.  When the parade was making its loop through the Superdome, plaintiff was hit in the head by a bag of beads.  She received first aid treatment on site, and was then transported to a local hospital.

Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the Endymion Krewe, alleging that it was liable both in its capacity as a organization and vicariously for its krewe member’s actions.  Plaintiff alleged that her injuries were caused by the “deliberate and wanton act or gross negligence” of the defendant, and that the defendant “willfully and knowingly permit its members to throw full bags of beads overhand in a space where people are seated, eating and enjoying musical entertainment.”  Plaintiff also asserted that because the defendant required its float “riders to be masked making identification of the individual tortfeasor impossible,” the defendant “must be liable for the conduct of its members.”

Defendant argued that each member of the Endymion Krewe received two tickets to enter into the subject extravaganza, and the tickets had a limitation of liability and assumption of risk printed on the back.  Defendant also asserted the affirmative defenses of comparative fault on the part of plaintiff (or third parties) and immunity for liability under the Mardi Gras immunity statute (La. R.S. 9:2796).  The statute, which was first enacted in 1979 to help control rising insurance costs for parading organizations, provides broad immunity for krewes that sponsor parades, and it provides that anyone who attends such a parade “assumes the risk of being struck by any missile whatsoever which has been traditionally thrown, tossed or hurled by members.”  The krewe bears the initial burden of providing evidence to establish its right to immunity under the statute.  Once established, the burden then shifts to the claimant to establish that the krewe engaged in gross negligence (an exception to the immunity).

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Rough Neighborhood

September 24, 2012

Landings Association, Inc. v. Williams (Georgia) (The estate of a victim fatally injured during an alligator attack brought an action against the association that owned the property were the attack occurred; the Supreme Court of Georgia ultimately held that the victim assumed the risk of harm or failed to exercise ordinary care.)

The 83-year-old decedent was house sitting for her daughter and son-in-law at a planned residential development with a golf course.  Prior to the construction of the development, the land was largely marsh, where indigenous alligators lives and thrived.  As part of the development, the defendant association installed a lagoon system which allowed enough drainage to create an area suitable for residential development.  Alligators inhabited the area both before and after the development, although no person had ever previously been attacked.  The decedent went for a walk near one of the lagoons one evening in 2007 and was attacked and killed.

Under Georgia’s premises liability law, the estate of the decedent argued that the association failed to take reasonable steps to protect the decedent from being attacked.  The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, which was denied by the trial court.  The defendant filed an interlocutory appeal, and the Court of Appeal affirmed the denial.  The defendant then filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court of Georgia, which was granted.

The Supreme Court reversed the ruling finding that the decedent “had equal knowledge of the threat of alligators within the community.”  The Court explained that decedent “either knowingly assumed the risks of walking in areas inhabited by wild alligators or failed to exercise ordinary care by doing so.”  According to the Court,

“The record shows that, prior to the attack, [decedent] was aware that the property was inhabited by alligators. [Decedent’s] son-in-law testified that, on at least one occasion, he was driving with [decedent] on property in [the development] when he stopped the car to allow [decedent] to look at an alligator. [Decedent’s] son-in-law also testified that [decedent] was, in fact, aware that there were alligators in the lagoons at [the development] and that he believed that [decedent] had a ‘normal’ respect for wild animals.”

Like the Court of Appeal, the dissent from the Supreme Court questioned the extent of the knowledge of the danger by the decedent arguing that there was “no ‘competent evidence that the decedent knew there were alligators over seven feet in size living in the community or living in the lagoon in which [decedent’s] body was found.’”  However, the majority countered by stating that “A reasonable adult who is not disabled understands that small alligators have large parents and are capable of moving from one lagoon to another, and such an adult, therefore, assumes the risk of an alligator attack when, knowing that wild alligators are present in a community, walks near a lagoon in that community after dark.” The dissent also questioned the published policies of the defendant association and the effectiveness of its patrols, inspections, and security.  The dissent expressed that reasonable minds could differ, and that the issue of negligence, contributory negligence, and lack of care for one’s own safety should have been resolved by trial.

NOTE: Considering the discussion in the dissent, the significance of the claim, and the court’s tendency to allow matters of negligence to be determined by a jury as a matter of fact, this is a pretty bold decision.

Fenced Off

June 20, 2007

Goettsch v. El Capitan Stadium Association (California-NOT PUBLISHED)
(Tied Up “Green” Horse at Rodeo Pulls Rope and Severs Spectators Fingers; Duty of Care Owed)

The plaintiff attended a rodeo. He was standing next to a chain link fence surrounding a warm up area on the defendant’s property. A “green” horse (i.e. a horse that has had little education and exposure to activities and events) was tied to the fence. Plaintiff placed his hands on the chain link fence. The horse pulled back from the fence and the plaintiff’s hand became entangled in the horse’s rope. Four of his fingers were severed from his hands. The plaintiff filed a complaint alleging negligence based upon a dangerous condition on the premises. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that liability was precluded by primary assumption of the risk, and that it did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care because the condition encountered was open and obvious.  The court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

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