Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case illustrating one of the difficulties that some Virginia slip-and-fall plaintiffs encounter when filing a case against a landowner. The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff’s case should proceed to trial despite the fact that she did not offer any direct evidence that the city knew the hazard existed. Finding that the plaintiff’s photographs failed to sufficiently prove that a crack in the sidewalk was so old as to impute knowledge of its existence, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was taking a walk to get some exercise along a sidewalk that was maintained by the defendant city. At some point in her walk, the plaintiff tripped and fell on a slab of concrete, breaking her arm. The plaintiff called 911, and the plaintiff’s daughter transported her to the hospital. The next day, the plaintiff met with a police officer and reported her injuries.
Photographs of the sidewalk where the plaintiff fell showed two adjoining concrete slabs, one about 1.5 to 2 inches higher than the other. The plaintiff testified that, while she could not say for sure that she tripped on the raised portion of the concrete slab, she just “knew that her feet hit something.”
The plaintiff did not present any evidence that the city had actual knowledge of the crack. Instead, the plaintiff argued that given the way the crack appeared in the photograph, it was a fair assumption that it had been present for a long time, and “a cursory sidewalk inspection” would have revealed its presence. The trial court agreed and denied the city’s motion for summary judgment. The city then appealed.
On appeal, the case was reversed. The appellate court explained that the plaintiff has the burden of proving the city had either actual or constructive knowledge of the crack. It was clear, the court held, that the plaintiff did not attempt to establish actual knowledge and focused on establishing constructive knowledge.
The court concluded, however, that the photographs alone could not prove the defendant should have known about the crack. The court explained that such an assumption amounted to nothing more than speculation because the photographs did not establish how long the crack had been there and only showed the crack at a single point in time. Thus, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case.
Have You Been Injured in a Virginia Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently suffered a back injury or another serious injury in a slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Attorney Charles B. Roberts, P.C. is a dedicated Virginia personal injury lawyer with decades of experience handling a wide range of Virginia injury cases, including slip-and-fall accidents. To learn more about how Attorney Roberts can help you recover the compensation you deserve for the injuries you have sustained, call 703-491-7070 to schedule a free consultation today.
See More Blog Posts:
Court Rejects Plaintiff’s Slip-and-Fall Lawsuit Based on Defendant’s Argument that Plaintiff Had Equal Knowledge of the Hazard that Caused Her Fall, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, July 6, 2018.
Court Discusses Defendant’s Liability in Multi-Vehicle Road Rage Accident, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, July 18, 2018.