State Supreme Court Orders New Trial in Slip and Fall Case

The Supreme Court of Iowa recently released a decision to vacate a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff in a premises liability case filed by a woman who fell on a patch of ice on the defendant’s property. The appellate court found that the district court improperly instructed the jury and ordered a new trial on the plaintiff’s claim. Although the plaintiff will not receive the damages she was awarded at the first trial, she may still receive compensation for her loss based on the recent appellate ruling.

The Plaintiff Slips on an Ice Patch and is Injured in Front of a Hotel

The plaintiff in the case of Alcala v. Marriott International was a woman who was traveling on business and staying at a hotel that was operated by the defendant. On the morning of January 21, 2010, she slipped and fell while exiting the hotel en route to her client’s office, breaking her ankle. The plaintiff later filed a premises liability case against the defendants, presenting several theories of liability that could require judgment in her favor. After a trial in which evidence was presented concerning the weather conditions on the day of the accident, the defendant’s training of their employees, and private and non-mandatory industry standards for slip resistance and snow and ice removal, the jury returned a verdict holding the defendant 98% responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries.

The Defendant Appeals the Verdict, Alleging Improper Jury Instructions Were Given

After the verdict was reached, the defendant appealed for a new trial, arguing that the jury was given improper instructions that made the verdict legally inappropriate. Specifically, the defendant argued that the jury should not have been permitted to base their verdict upon the theory that the defendant had negligently trained their employees, since the plaintiff submitted no evidence to demonstrate what type of training would meet the standard of care. Furthermore, the defendant argued that the jury was improperly instructed as to the applicability of private industry safety standards regarding slip resistant materials.

The state high court sided with the defendant on both issues. Their ruling emphasized that a plaintiff must put forth evidence as to the applicable standard of care that the defendant breached in order for a theory of negligence to pass legal muster. Since the plaintiff failed to do so as part of their negligent training allegation, the jury’s verdict would not have been appropriate if it relied on that theory of the plaintiff’s case. The appellate court also found that the jury had been improperly instructed to accept the plaintiff’s testimony concerning the industry safety standards when the defendant had also called an expert, who made a valid argument that the standards the plaintiff was discussing were completely inapplicable to the case at hand. Since the jury returned a general verdict for the plaintiff, the court had no way of knowing which of the plaintiff’s theories of liability supported the verdict, and it ordered a new trial as a result.

Alternative Theories of Liability in a Virginia Personal Injury Case

Victims who are injured by the negligence of another party are entitled to damages if a judge or jury finds that the elements of a negligence claim are properly met. In a Virginia or Maryland personal injury lawsuit, plaintiffs are allowed to present alternative theories of liability, even if the multiple theories could not all be the source of the plaintiff’s injuries. Often, a personal injury claim results in a favorable verdict for a plaintiff upon a theory of liability that was not initially thought to be the strongest. As legal doctrines evolve and facts or expert opinions are newly discovered, what may have appeared to be a long-shot for the plaintiff’s recovery may become their best chance of receiving compensation for their injuries.

Have You Been Injured?

If you or a loved one has been involved in a slip and fall, there may be several different theories of negligence that can be used to hold the defendant accountable for your injuries. The knowledgeable Virginia, District of Columbia, and Maryland personal injury lawyers at The Schupak Law Firm can make a strong case for damages under all the applicable theories. If you’ve been hurt, contact the Virginia injury attorneys at The Schupak Law Firm today. We accept clients and have several office locations in 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 by 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.

Contact Information