Proof of Causation Is Imperative in Virginia Slip-and-Fall Cases

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.

The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the restaurant’s manager, claiming that the manager’s negligent maintenance of the property caused her fall. However, when asked, the plaintiff could not remember exactly how she fell. She explained to the court that “it just happened so fast . . . I just remember pushing on the door, and the next thing I remember is just sitting there.”

The defendant argued that the plaintiff’s claims were insufficient to show that her fall had anything to do with the condition of the door or floor. He asked the court to dismiss the case, and the court agreed. The plaintiff then appealed the case to a higher court.

On appeal, the case was affirmed. The appellate court agreed with the lower court that the plaintiff’s claims that the defendant’s negligence caused her fall were “mere speculation.” The court pointed out that, when she was asked about how she fell, the plaintiff couldn’t remember. Thus, there was no evidence she could show that indicated that a hazardous condition on the property caused her fall. The fact that the floor was wet, without testimony that the wet floor was responsible for her fall, was not enough to survive summary judgment.

Have You Been Injured in a Virginia Slip-and-Fall Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Virginia slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The skilled injury attorneys at the Virginia law firm of Charles B. Roberts & Associates have decades of combined experience helping victims seek the compensation they need and deserve. We have offices in Fredericksburg and Arlington, and we accept cases across the Commonwealth. Call 703-491-7070 to set up a free consultation today.

See More Blog Posts:

Virginia Municipalities Are Responsible for Maintaining Safe Roadways, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, January 23, 2017.

Hotel Chain May Be Liable for Punitive Damages after Shower Door “Explodes”, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, February 1, 2017.