Earlier this month in Oklahoma, a $350,000 settlement was reached in favor of a woman who was seriously injured at a track-and-field meet held at a local school. According to a news source covering the case, the woman and her husband were attending the meet as spectators and were standing in a section that had been fenced off and specifically designated as a place for people to watch the event. However, during the meet, a student athlete threw a discus that traveled into the spectator area and struck the plaintiff.

Track and FieldThe object that struck the plaintiff was a standard 3.5-pound discus that was plastic with a metal core. As a result of the incident, the 83-year-old woman suffered serious injuries, including a traumatic brain injury.

The woman and her husband filed a premises liability lawsuit against the school district as well as the Nebraska State Activities Association, alleging that the organizations failed to keep spectators safe. Specifically, the plaintiff and her husband claimed that there was not a sufficient barrier between the athletes and the spectators, that the organizations failed to warn spectators about the dangers involved, and that there was no safe area to observe.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Rhode Island issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit brought by a man who was injured while he was helping a friend move a large piece of furniture. According to the facts as presented in the court’s opinion, the plaintiff slipped and fell down a spiral staircase after he placed his weight on a handrail. As the plaintiff placed his weight on the handrail, the railing snapped, causing the plaintiff to lose his balance and fall down through the center of the spiral staircase.

Spiral StaircaseThe plaintiff brought a premises liability lawsuit against his friend’s landlord, claiming that the landlord had failed to keep the railing – which was in a common area of the apartment building – in a reasonably safe condition.

The Evidence Presented at Trial

The plaintiff was the only witness to testify at trial. The plaintiff explained that he was trying to move a large piece of furniture down the stairs, but the landing was very small, so he had to position himself partially down the stairs. In doing so, it was necessary to place “just a little bit of pressure” on the rail.

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a case that arose from a bicycle accident that occurred on federally owned land. Ultimately, the case presented the court with the opportunity to determine whether the government was immune from liability under the doctrine of sovereign immunity, which protects the discretionary acts of governments and government employees. Since the court determined that the alleged acts of negligence were discretionary, the court upheld the government’s sovereign immunity.

Forest TrailThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was riding her mountain bike in the De Soto National Forest. She did not look at the bulletin board at the trail head, which had a warning that the Couch Loop Trail was closed. The plaintiff and her friend continued down the Couch Loop Trail, eventually taking an alternate route off the main trail. This alternate route led the bikers to an area with various ramps, or “jumps.” The ramps were not built by the U.S. Forest Service, and the Forest Service claimed to have no knowledge of their existence.

The plaintiff rode over one of the ramps and fell, resulting in a serious injury. She filed a premises liability lawsuit against the federal government, claiming that the government was negligent in maintaining the land and also negligent in failing to warn her about the dangerous conditions. The plaintiff claimed that government immunity did not apply in this instance, since the acts of the rangers were ministerial. A ministerial act is one that does not involve the exercise of discretion.

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Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Virginia issued a written opinion in an interesting case brought by the surviving family of a man who was killed by a train. The case required the court to discuss the “last clear chance” doctrine and its applicability to cases in which both the accident victim and the defendant may have been negligent. Ultimately, given the specific facts of the case, the court determined that the plaintiff’s case should proceed to trial.

Railroad TracksThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s husband was killed as he was walking next to a set of railroad tracks. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff’s husband was walking next to the tracks, listening to music on his phone, when a train approached. Evidently, the plaintiff’s husband was unable to hear the approaching train due to the music, and as the train passed him, a part of the train that overhung past the tracks struck the plaintiff’s husband. He was killed instantly.

The plaintiff filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company that owned the train, as well as the conductor and engineer. She claimed that, notwithstanding any possible negligence of her deceased husband, the defendants were the one with the last opportunity to avoid the collision, but they failed to do so. The trial court disagreed with the plaintiff’s argument and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

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Medical malpractice cases are some of the most complex and confusing types of personal injury cases. In fact, most medical malpractice cases require an understanding of the medical field beyond what most lawyers and judges possess. For this reason, Virginia lawmakers have implemented a requirement that all medical malpractice plaintiffs present a qualified expert to help explain to the judge and jury how the defendant’s actions fell below the required standard of care and also how those actions resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries.

SurgeryThe selection of medical experts in a medical malpractice case is an extremely important decision that can have an enormous effect on the outcome of the case. For example, if a witness is not properly qualified, or does not offer an opinion that is based upon acceptable and recognized practices of the profession, the expert’s opinion may be open to attack by the defense.

A recent opinion illustrates the problems one medical malpractice plaintiff encountered when a court determined that the experts he presented failed to establish that the defendant’s actions were responsible for his injuries.

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Earlier this week, an appellate court in Rhode Island issued a written opinion in a premises liability case brought by the parents of a young boy who was injured while playing baseball in a park owned and operated by the defendant city. Ultimately, the court determined that although the plaintiff presented evidence on appeal that the defendant city knew of the alleged hazard prior to their son’s injury, it could not be considered on appeal because the evidence was not presented at trial.

Baseball DiamondThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was participating in a baseball game in a park that was maintained by the defendant city. As the plaintiff was sliding into home base, his right foot and shin slid under the edge of the plate, which had been lifted due to repeated use. As the boy tried to stand, he broke his leg in two places.

A few months after the accident, the boy’s parents filed a personal injury lawsuit against the city, alleging that it had failed to safely maintain the field. In response, the city claimed that it was immune from the lawsuit due to the state’s recreational use statute. The plaintiff’s attorney issued a general objection to the application of the recreational use statute, but failed to provide a specific basis for the objection.

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All Virginia drivers are responsible for carrying a certain amount of auto insurance for their vehicle in case they are in an accident that results in bodily injury or property damage. Drivers must also have insurance coverage in the event that an uninsured or underinsured motorist causes a collision. However, having the necessary insurance coverage does not guarantee that the insurance company will settle any claim made against the policy. In fact, in too many cases insurance companies will deny coverage for medical treatment that was received in the immediate aftermath of a serious accident.

Side DamageA recent case in front of a state appellate court illustrates one woman’s journey in getting an insurance company to cover the costs of the treatment she received in the hours after a car accident, caused by an uninsured motorist.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in the case was a passenger in her mother’s car when it was struck by another driver who had run a stop sign. The plaintiff was transported to the hospital via ambulance and admitted to the emergency room. Once she was seen in the emergency room, she was then sent to the trauma center. She was discharged later that day with a cervical collar.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a premises liability case that required the court to determine if a school could be held liable in a case in which a student slipped and fell on a patch of ice that formed after the school applied snow-melt in the immediate area. Ultimately, the court concluded that while the school’s actions did alter the natural state of the snow on its property, there was no evidence suggesting that the school’s actions increased the risk of an accident. Thus, the case against the school was dismissed.

Icy Weather

A Student Playing on an Ice Patch Slips and Falls

A student at the defendant middle school was playing on a patch of ice with some friends when he fell, chipping a tooth and fracturing his nose. The boy’s parents filed a premises liability lawsuit against the school, arguing that the school should be held liable for his injuries because it negligently allowed the ice patch to form.

The school moved for summary judgment, explaining that the snow or ice is cleared by school employees each morning. Evidence also showed that school employees applied snow-melt to the parking lot in order to get the snow and ice in the parking lot to melt. The school argued that it should not be held liable for the natural accumulation of snow or ice on the property.

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Property owners across the State of Virginia owe a duty to those whom they invite onto their land. The extent of that duty depends on the relationship between the parties. However, as a general rule, if someone is invited onto the property of another party and slips and falls due to a hazardous condition, they may have a case for damages against the property owner.

Wet Floor SignOne common requirement for all premises liability lawsuits is that the injured party must be able to establish that the landowner’s negligence was the cause of their injuries. This is called the causation element. A recent case illustrates how a plaintiff’s inability to prove causation can be fatal to a premises liability lawsuit.

A Slip-and-Fall Accident Inside a Fast-Food Restaurant

The plaintiff in the case was a woman who was attempting to visit a fast-food restaurant. Like many businesses, the restaurant’s entrance consisted of two sets of double doors, with a small foyer between them. The plaintiff entered the first set of doors without a problem, but as she tried to open the second set of doors, she was unable to do so. She jiggled the door with no luck. She then started to shake the door, trying to open it, and the next thing she knew, she was on the floor. After she fell, she noticed that the ground around her was damp due to the rain outside.

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To help combat the increasing demand on the court system, court have implemented a series of strict rules that plaintiffs must follow in order to have their case heard in a timely manner. There are various types of rules, and the penalty for the violation of a rule depends on which type of rule was violated.

Wall ClockOne type of court rule is a jurisdictional rule. Jurisdictional rules are perhaps the most important because when they are not followed, the court loses the power to issue a binding decision in a case. For example, statutes of limitations are  considered to be jurisdictional rules. Thus, if a party fails to file a lawsuit within a certain amount of time, the court loses the power to hear the case. Since the violation of a jurisdictional rule deprives the court of the power to hear the case, once a jurisdictional rule is violated, a court cannot make an exception to the application of that rule, even if the court determines it is in the interest of justice.

Other mandatory court rules can, when violated, result in the dismissal of a case. However, since the violation of a non-jurisdiction mandatory rule does not deprive the court of the power to hear the case, courts can readily apply exceptions when they deem it appropriate.

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