Negligence lawsuits are comprised of four basic elements: duty, breach of duty, damages, and causation. Typically, the question of whether or not a duty existed in a particular case is a legal question that must be resolved by a judge, while the issue of whether that duty was, in fact, breached is a question for the trier of fact (the jury).
In a recent case, the plaintiff in a negligence action asserted that the defendant owed a duty to use due care in holding a ladder that the plaintiff was using, but the defendant denied that such a duty existed. (It should be noted that the parties to the litigation were a father and son, but, in reality, any judgment obtained by the son would likely be the responsibility of the father’s liability insurance company.)
Facts of the Case
In the recent case of Hoynacki v. Hoynacki, the plaintiff was a man who fell while helping the defendant (the plaintiff’s father) wax a recreational vehicle. According to the plaintiff, the reason that he fell was that the defendant breached his duty to exercise reasonable care in securing and stabilizing the ladder.
The Circuit Court of Washington County granted summary judgment to the defendant, holding that the defendant did not have a duty to hold the ladder. The plaintiff appealed the trial court’s decision.
Decision of the Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Knoxville
The appellate court reversed, holding that there were genuine issues of material fact with regard to whether the defendant was negligent under the circumstances of the case. In so holding, the court noted that, under prior Tennessee case law, a party “who assumes to act, even though gratuitously, may thereby become subject to the duty of acting carefully.”
After reviewing the deposition testimony submitted to the trial court for its consideration in deciding the defendant’s summary judgment motion, the court decided that the defendant did assume a duty to stabilize and secure the ladder while the plaintiff was working on it. Thus, the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff to exercise due care under the circumstances. The issue of whether the defendant did or did not breach that duty was a question for the trier of fact, so the court remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings.
An Experienced East Tennessee Injury Attorney to Help with Your Case
Many serious injuries and even wrongful deaths occur annually due to the negligence of homeowners and others who own or control property. If you have been hurt because a person, business, or branch of government failed to meet a legal duty that you believe was owed to you, it is important that you talk to an experienced east Tennessee premises liability attorney about your case. Call us at (865) 524-5657 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your Maryville, Knoxville, or other east Tennessee accident case.
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