Articles Posted in Premises Liability

Dean Wilcox fell 50 feet through an open catwalk hatch onto a concrete floor. Having sustained severe injuries, he sued the on-site safety planner, Steven Basehore, for negligent planning causing the fall; Wilcox also named the safety planner’s employer, Bartlett Services Inc., and an intermediary company, ELR Consulting Inc. (ELR), in respondeat superior. ELR was one of the many contractors involved in the cleanup project.

The work being done at the  site was to dismantle a nuclear weaponry facility that measured more than 586 square miles.

Before trial, the court granted ELR judgment as a matter of law. At trial, the court instructed the jury on the borrowed servant doctrine, an extension of respondeat superior. Wilcox appealed both decisions. The Washington State Court of Appeals affirmed.

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Ana Espinal, 41, was a home health aide who was working in a New York City hospital. She was walking in a hospital hallway when she slipped and fell in a puddle of water that had leaked from an air conditioner in the ceiling. She suffered neck, back, left hip and left leg pain and diminished sensation in her left, non-dominant arm. Espinal was diagnosed with herniated disks at C5-6 and L4-S1, bulging disks at C4-5 and L1-4, left shoulder impingement and aggravation of asymptomatic arthritis in her left knee.

Espinal underwent conservative treatment, but that failed. She then had a laminectomy infusion at L4-S1, which included implantation of stabilizing hardware. The following year she underwent three separate surgeries, including implantation of spinal stimulators and her neck and lower back and a left knee replacement. She required additional surgeries for repair or replacement of the spinal stimulators.

Her past medical expenses totaled $439,000. Her workers’ compensation carrier paid all the medical bills plus indemnity benefits and maintained a worker’s compensation lien of $567,800.

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago has affirmed a district court decision where sanctions were allowed in the form of attorney fees. The court of appeals stated that under Federal Rule 37, sanctions may include an order to pay the amount of reasonable expenses incurred in preparing the motion for sanctions, including attorney fees.

In March 2012, Angel Houston sued Hyatt Corp. and the Hyatt Regency Inn for breach of contract, intentional misconduct and negligence. The lawsuit arose out of injuries Houston suffered after falling at the downtown Indianapolis Hyatt Hotel during a hotel-sponsored New Year’s Eve party on Dec. 31, 2010.

Houston claimed that Hyatt chose not to provide a safe and secure environment for the party and that this failure was the proximate cause of her injuries. Damages were sought in excess of $1 million.

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Vanessa Noboa used Orbitz to book and pay for a room at the Barceló Los Cabos Palace Hotel on the Baja Peninsula of Mexico.

She signed up for an all-terrain vehicle tour with Rancho Carisuva. During the tour, the all-terrain vehicle overturned and killed Noboa. Her family brought a lawsuit against Rancho Carisuva and Barceló Corporación Empresarial, a Spanish corporation. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

The presiding judge granted the defendants’ motions to dismiss for lack of specific personal jurisdiction. Neither of the defendants had personal contact with Illinois.

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On Sept. 10, 2011, Stefan Zlatev was involved in a fight that started in an apartment building and spilled out to the street. During the fight, Zlatev was hit on the head with a brick. He suffered several broken bones to his face.

The big issue in this case was the fact that Zlatev could not identify who hit him. A police report prepared on Nov. 8, 2011 identified Mariyana Lechova as the witness who saw a man walking away from the fight and carrying a brick.

The man was described as “male, white, 22 years old, 5 feet 7 inches to 5 feet 8 inches, 170 pounds, short blond hair and wearing a red shirt.”

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On July 18, 2010 Geraldine Mular was a guest of the home of Dawn Ingram. Mular fell into a backyard pool and was injured. No lawsuit was filed until July 16, 2012, just one day before the statute of limitations would have expired. The lawsuit named Ingram as the defendant.

In the complaint, Mular alleged that Ingram failed to keep “the area around the premises’ pool maintained and properly constructed.” Notably, Mular did not allege that Ingram either constructed the pool or was involved in its design, but she did claim that Ingram had failed to keep the area clear of tripping hazards, failed to provide safe ingress and egress and had allowed the area to become unsafe due to poor maintenance.

In the lawsuit, Ingram’s home was correctly listed as 1694 Van Buren Ave., Des Plaines, Ill. However, the summons that was issued on July 16, 2012 listed Ingram’s residence as 1649 Van Buren Ave., transposing the last two digits of the address. The court noted that “the clerk’s docket does not reflect that the summons was ever placed with the Sheriff for service.”

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The plaintiff Michael Hawkins signed a release when he purchased a gym membership from X-Sport Fitness, which is owned by Capital Fitness Inc. The release document did not expressly cover the unusual hazard of falling mirrors, which occurred at the Chicago facility when a 3-foot by 8-foot mirror fell from a wall protrusion and struck Hawkins on the head while he was performing arm curls at X-Sport’s Logan Square facility. It was alleged that the mirror fell on Hawkins because X-Sport’s employees chose not to properly secure it.

The release document that was signed by Hawkins stated in all capital letters that Hawkins accepted “all risks of injury from using the gym’s equipment and facility”; agreed to hold the company and its affiliates harmless from any injury caused by negligent acts and omissions “arising out of or in any way related to the member’s presence and/or use of the facility”; and released all claims for personal injury that might be caused by improper maintenance of any “exercise equipment or facilities.”

On the basis of that release and its language, the trial judge granted Capital Fitness’s motion for summary judgment in its favor. The Illinois Appellate Court reversed stating that “Because an exculpatory clause is strictly construed against the party it benefits, the clause must identify the range of dangers for which risk of injury is being assumed.” The court added, “We are unable to hold, as a matter of law, that a falling mirror is a danger within the scope of the exculpatory clause.”

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Jimmy Garcia, a 67-year-old retiree, had a history of subdural hematoma and skull fracture, which had caused him temporary cognitive impairment.

Garcia was crossing a city street in a crosswalk when a floral truck owned and operated by George Seretis struck him after turning left out of a parking garage.  Garcia suffered a fractured rib cage and severe skull fractures, which caused intracranial hemorrhages and a traumatic brain injury.

He underwent emergency brain surgery and later received extensive inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation. He now suffers hearing loss and attends a therapy center with cognitive impairments. Garcia sued the floral business and Seretis, alleging Sereits chose not to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian in the crosswalk or identify what was in front of his van to avoid the collision.

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The Illinois Appellate Court for the 1st District has reversed and remanded a case decided in the Circuit Court of Cook County. In August 2011, Virginia Jahrke arrived at the health club belonging to Capital Fitness Inc. for her usual one-hour training session.

After she finished her session, she went into a locker room and changed and started to walk out. As she was walking, she slipped and fell on something wet on the floor.

On Dec. 7, 2011, Jahrke filed a lawsuit against Capital in the Circuit Court of Cook County alleging that the company chose not to properly maintain the locker room or provide warning of a slippery floor and that its negligence caused her to slip and fall, injuring herself.

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Cynthia DeCornmier suffered serious injuries when she fell from her motorcycle on a motorcycle training course. Before the beginning of the training course, DeCornmier signed a release of all claims that may have resulted from or arising out of her participation in the training course. The release document stated in bold letters that it covered all claims she may have, including without limitation, all claims resulting from the negligence of those involved in the course.

In spite of the release that was signed in advance of the motorcycle training course, she filed a lawsuit against Harley-Davidson and Gateway Harvey-Davidson alleging that they were negligent and reckless by directing her to perform motorcycle maneuvers on a range that was icy and slippery. In the lawsuit, DeCornmier maintained that the liability release document that she signed in advance was unenforceable against claims of gross negligence or recklessness.

The defendants Harley Davidson and Gateway Harley-Davidson, filed motions for summary judgment, which the trial judge granted dismissing DeCornmier’s case.

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