Archive for the ‘Premises Liability’ Category

Free of Charge – City Immune Under Statute From Premises Liability Claim by Injured Youth Football Spectator (ID)

November 10, 2015

Hayes v, City of Plummer (Idaho)

The plaintiff was a spectator attending a youth tackle football game at a park owned by the defendant City of Plummer.  He was seriously injured after stumbling on uneven ground hidden by grass, and he filed a premises liability claim against the defendant for his injuries.  The defendant then filed a motion for summary judgment based on Idaho’s Recreational Use Statute.  The trial court granted the City’s motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

On appeal. the Supreme Court of Idaho affirmed the trial court’s decision.  Under the Idaho Recreational Use Statute, “[a] ‘landowner’ who provides property for public recreational use is afforded a limitation of liability and ‘owes no duty of care to keep the premises safe for entry by others for recreational purposes, or to give any warning of a dangerous condition, use, structure, or activity on such premises to persons entering for such purposes.'”  This liability limitation applies when the property is offered “without charge.”  The plaintiff asserted that the school district’s payment of utilities and other expenses related to the park for the benefit of the defendant should be considered a “charge” such that the liability immunity did not apply.  However, the Court disagreed, explaining:

“The intent and purpose of Idaho’s Recreational Use Statute is to provide recreational access at no cost to the general public. I.C. § 36–1604(a) . In this case, the City and the School District have done that by allocating resources in order to provide and maintain the Park for all to enjoy. Because the City did not charge or receive compensation from [plaintiff] or the public for their use and enjoyment of the land, Idaho Code section 36–1604  provides a limitation on liability for [plaintiff’s] injuries. The district court properly granted summary judgment.”

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Pass Interference – Woman Injured Chasing Frisbee Thrown From Stage; Claims Barred as a Matter of Law (MN)

November 2, 2015

Strelow v. Winona Steamboat Days Festival Association (Minnesota)
(not published)

Plaintiff attended a festival organized by the defendant.  During a break in the music, representatives from a local radio station went on stage and began throwing t-shirts and Frisbees from the stage.  The Frisbees had tickets to the local zoo attached to them.  Plaintiff gestured as if she wanted to catch a Frisbee and one of the people on stage threw one in her direction, but it veered off course.  Plaintiff took took four to six steps diagonally and slightly backwards with her arms in the air, trying to catch it.  However, plaintiff fell down, rolled against a curb, and fractured her shoulder.

Plaintiff and her husband filed a lawsuit against the defendant event organizer, alleging that defendant failed to maintain a safe area and failed to warn plaintiff of a hazardous condition on the premises.  Plaintiff contended that she fell as a result of tripping on electrical cords that were “black and rubbery” and “bigger than extension cords.”  She indicated that she did not know whether they were connected to anything, she said she did not see them before she fell, and she had not previously walked in the area of the incident.  Plaintiff was unable to find any witnesses to her fall.

Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting (1) no evidence of a dangerous condition caused by defendant existed, (2) any alleged dangerous condition was open and obvious, (3) the defendant did not owe the plaintiff a duty because it had no actual or constructive notice of the alleged condition, and (4) plaintiff’s claims were barred by primary assumption of risk.  The trial court granted defendant’s motion, finding that plaintiff “failed to establish a prima facie case of negligence because no evidence was presented that any cords ran over the blacktop” in the area of the incident.  Plaintiff appealed.

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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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No Relief – Issue of Town’s Liability Regarding Condition of High School Baseball Field for the Jury (MA)

October 19, 2015

Murray v. Town of Hudson (Massachusetts)

A relief pitcher for a high school baseball team injured his knee while warming up in the visiting team bullpen.  He filed a lawsuit against the town that maintained the park at which the baseball field was located, alleging that the injury was caused by the town’s negligence and its wanton and reckless conduct in allowing the visiting team to use a dangerous bullpen.  The town filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that the negligence claim was barred by the Massachusetts recreational use statute, and that the evidence did not support a finding of wanton or reckless conduct.  The trial court granted the defendant’s motion, and the pitcher appealed.

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Rather Shallow – Man Broke His Neck Diving Into Lake; Risk Deemed Open and Obvious (IL)

September 16, 2015

Bujnowski v. Birchland, Inc. (Illinois)
(not published)

The plaintiff was visiting a recreational area operated by the defendant.  He dove off a pier into a lake on the property and broke his neck.  He sued the defendant alleging that the defendant had no employees monitoring the area, and that the defendant was negligent in failing to supervise or train customers properly on the use of the are and failing to warn them of the dangers of using the area.  The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on the basis that it did not owe a duty to plaintiff because the danger of diving into water was open and obvious.  The trial court granted the defendant’s motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

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“Baled” Out – Woman Trips on Stairs at Farm; Indemnity Agreement in Release Contrary to Public Policy (CT)

September 2, 2015

Squinobal v. Zenko (Connecticut)

Plaintiff was injured when she slipped and fell on wooden stairs located on the defendant’s premises.  The defendant operated a farm and equestrian facility.  At the time of the incident, plaintiff was carrying a bale of hay and seed to a feed trailer.  Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging that her injuries resulted from the negligence and carelessness of the defendant.  The defendant filed a counterclaim based on a “Lesson, Horse Rental, and Arena Use Release” document (“Release”) signed by the plaintiff in order to ride horses at the facility.  The defendant then filed a motion for partial summary judgment on the ground that plaintiff had a duty to defend and indemnify the defendant under the terms of the Release. (more…)

Out of Control? – Woman Injured by Display at Conference Wins Jury Verdict; Evidence Properly Excluded at Trial (MO)

September 1, 2015

Medley v. Joyce Meyer Ministries, Inc. (Missouri)

The plaintiff attended a conference that was hosted by the defendant, and she was injured when she tripped over a window display set up in a boutique vendor area at the conference.  Plaintiff filed an action against the defendant for premises liability, alleging (1) that she was an invitee of the defendant, (2) the defendant controlled (or had the right to control) the boutique area that included the display, (3) the defendant negligently placed the window display in a crowded and congested area, and (4) plaintiff suffered injuries and damages as a result of the defendant’s negligence.

During trial, the defendant attempted to introduce documentary evidence, including a license agreement, between the defendant and the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission (“CVC”) showing CVC’s involvement in the conference.  Plaintiff objected to the evidence  as irrelevant, and the trial court sustained the objections.  Defendant also sought to introduce witness testimony about CVC’s involvement in the conference and CVC’s relationship with the defendant.  However, the trial court held: “(1) there was no evidence to suggest that Defendant was not in possession of the premises where Plaintiff’s injury occurred; (2) the only relevant relationship in the case was the relationship between Plaintiff and Defendant; and (3) the evidence presented by Defendant in its offer of proof was not relevant.”  Thereafter, the defendant sought the introduction of a jury instruction that stated: “Your verdict must be for [D]efendant if you believe that [D]efendant was not in possession or control of the premises.” However, the trial court refused to submit the instruction.

Upon the conclusion of the trial, the jury entered a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, finding that plaintiff’s total damages were $400,000.  The verdict assessed defendant seventy percent at fault and plaintiff thirty percent at fault, thereby awarding plaintiff $280,000 in damages.  The court entered a judgment consistent with the verdict, and defendant filed a motion for a new trial.  The motion was denied, and the defendant appealed. (more…)

Front Row Seats – Woman Injured by Stampede in Overcrowded Movie Theater; Crowd Control Liability for the Jury (NY)

August 27, 2015

Sachar v. Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. (New York)

Plaintiff was escorting a group of teenagers to see a free screening of a movie.   Plaintiff’s group was directed to an upper level to find seat, but was then told to turn around and go downstairs.  As the group was returning, there was a sudden stampede of people rushing from behind.  The assistant manager of the movie theater confirmed that there appeared to have been a stampede, and an employee of the movie studio that produced the movie testified that the event was overbooked to ensure that the theater was filled to capacity.

As a result of the stampede, plaintiff was pushed forward and she was “hurled in the air,” suffering personal injury.  Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against both the movie theater and the movie studio.  The defendants filed motions for summary judgment, which were granted by the trial court.  Plaintiff filed a motion to reargue the motions, and upon re-argument, the trial court denied the defendants’ motion.  The defendants then appealed.

On appeal, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court affirmed the decision.  The Court explained that “[u]nder the circumstances presented, involving the deliberate overbooking of a theater for a free film screening, defendants were required to show that they took adequate crowd control measures to address the foreseeable risks to those attending in order to meet their prima facie burden of demonstrating entitlement to summary judgment.”  However, the defendants failed to present evidence that adequate crowd control measure were in place at the time of the incident.  The Court also stated that “the deposition testimony also creates an issue of fact as to [the movie studio’s] specific security duties, as sponsors of the event, at the screening.”

 

A Trip to the Festival – Woman Injured from Exposed Pipe on Unpaved Walkway to a Parking Lot; Issues of Fact for the Jury (FL)

August 21, 2015

Cook v. Bay Area Renaissance Festival of Largo, Inc. (Florida)

Plaintiff attended a festival organized by the defendant, and she tripped and fell over an exposed pipe on an unpaved walkway connecting the festival grounds to an overflow parking lot.  Plaintiff filed an action action against the organizer, contending that it negligently maintained the property where the incident occurred.  The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that there was no proof that it had control over the premises where the incident occurred.  Although plaintiff was directed by festival volunteers to park in the overflow parking, there was conflicting testimony concerning whether the volunteers directed her to use the unpaved walkway.  The trial court granted the defendant’s motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the District Court of Appeal of Florida reversed the decision and remanded the matter for further proceedings.  First, the Court held that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the organizer had exercised control of the unpaved area.  The Court stated “[a] party ‘who assumes control over the premises in question, no matter under what guise, assumes also the duty to keep them in repair.'”  The defendant was clearly using the overflow parking, and there was conflicting evidence as to whether the defendant intended its invitees to use the unpaved walkway.  The Court also noted that the evidence showed that the defendant took action to remove the pipe from the area after the incident.  Such evidence suggested the defendant’s control over the premises.

Second, the Court held there was also a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the pipe was a dangerous condition, and whether warnings from the plaintiff’s husband and other attendees were sufficient to absolve the defendant from liability.  The defendant argued that the pipe was “open and obvious,” such that it did not owe her a duty to warn her about the hazard.  However, the Court explained that “even when a hazard is open and obvious, a landowner or possessor can still be held liable for failing ‘to exercise reasonable care to prevent foreseeable injury’ to invitees.”

 

Worst Seat in the House – Triable Issue as to Whether Park Had Notice of Dangerous Bleachers (AL)

August 18, 2015

Shirley v. Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority (Alabama)

Plaintiff was sitting on bleachers at Munny Sokol Park in Alabama watching a youth football game.  Certain welds on the bleachers broke, causing plaintiff to fall and suffer personal injury.  Plaintiff filed a complaint against the parks and recreation authority that owned the property, alleging negligence and wantonness.  Plaintiff later amended her complaint to assert a claim under the Alabama Extended Manufacturer’s Liability Doctrine against several fictitiously named defendants.  The property owner filed a motion for summary judgment arguing it was entitled to immunity under Alabama’s recreational use statute.  The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, plaintiff argued that the trial court improperly entered summary judgment because there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the park was being used for commercial purposes and whether the property owner had “actual knowledge or an unreasonable risk of death or serious bodily harm” (both exceptions to the statutory immunity).

The Court of Civil Appeals of Alabama noted that plaintiff presented no evidence indicating that the use of the park was commercial in nature.  However, the Court found that the plaintiff did present evidence that the property owner had actual knowledge regarding the unreasonably dangerous condition of the bleachers and that it failed to guard or warn against the consequences.  The evidence established that an employee of the property owner arrived at the scene of the incident and commented, “I told them earlier to put a cone or a sign on this bleacher until we could get somebody out here to repair it.”  Another witness also confirmed that the the condition of the bleachers was known and should have been “coned off.”  The property owner disputed the facts, but the Court noted that it was required to review the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant.  Therefore, the Court reversed the decision and remanded the trial for further proceedings.