State Court Reverses Verdict for Plaintiff Due to Incomplete Negligence Claim

A West Virginia court recently released an opinion in which it reversed a jury verdict that had awarded the plaintiff nearly $70,000 in medical expenses and lost wages for injuries he suffered because of the alleged negligence of the defendant. Since the high court reversed the lower court’s decision not to award a directed verdict to the defendant in the case, the plaintiff will ultimately not be compensated for the alleged negligence of the defendant.

Wooden FenceThe Plaintiff Is Injured Falling Down a Hill after Leaning on an Unsafe Fence Post

The plaintiff in Wheeling Park Commission v. Dattoli filed a negligence lawsuit against the defendant for injuries sustained after he fell down a steep hill when he leaned on a broken fence at a park that was being operated by the defendant. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant had a duty to keep the fence in reasonable condition to prevent such accidents from occurring.

At trial, the plaintiff called the park operations director as a witness to testify that the fence failed as a result of the wood decaying, and the witness could not show any maintenance or repairs to the fence prior to the accident. After the trial, the jury awarded a verdict to the the plaintiff to compensate him for the medical expenses that he incurred treating his injuries, as well as for lost wages based on his recovery.

The Defendant Appeals, Arguing that the Plaintiff Failed to Prove that the Defendant Breached a Duty to Keep up the Fence

After the trial, the defendant appealed the verdict to the state appellate court. On appeal, the high court agreed with the defendant that the plaintiff presented no evidence to demonstrate what the commission should have done to prevent the fence from failing, and thus he failed to demonstrate the requisite duty element of a West Virginia negligence claim. Furthermore, the appellate court found that since the defect in the fence was not obvious before the plaintiff fell, the defendant was not on actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition, and therefore it could not be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.

Elements of a Virginia Premises Liability Claim

For a Virginia injury claim to succeed against a landowner, a plaintiff must make a prima facie case of negligence by the preponderance of the evidence. Negligence is generally established by demonstrating that the defendant had a duty to the plaintiff, that the duty was breached by the defendant, and that the plaintiff was injured and incurred damages as a result of the breach.

In the case of an injured plaintiff who was a licensee on the defendant’s property, such as a park patron or social visitor, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the landowner had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition, would expect a visitor not to notice the condition without a warning, and failed to either correct the condition or warn the visitor of the condition. Additionally, the visitor cannot have actual knowledge of the condition. If a plaintiff can prove these elements of a Virginia premises liability claim, they may be entitled to damages as compensation for their injuries.

Contact a Virginia Premises Liability Attorney

If you or a family member has been injured or killed by a dangerous condition on public or private property, the Virginia, District of Columbia, and Maryland personal injury lawyers at Charles B. Roberts and Associates, PC want to help you seek the compensation that you deserve. Our qualified Virginia attorneys have the experience to make a strong and complete case for damages, based on the facts surrounding your injuries. At Charles B. Roberts and Associates, we accept clients and have several office locations throughout the entire D.C. Metro area, including in Arlington, Fredericksburg, and Woodbridge, as well as throughout Northern Virginia and Southern Maryland. Contact us by calling 703-491-7070 (Virginia) or 888-407-4529 (toll-free Maryland and D.C.), or send us a message using our online form.

See More Blog Posts:

Bar Owner Held Not Liable for Parking Lot Accident After Kicking At-Fault Driver Out of Bar, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, June 6, 2016.

Car Accident Victim’s Award Upheld after Government’s Appeal, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, May 3, 2016.