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Knoxville Appeals Court Holds Plaintiff’s Evidence Was Sufficient to Continue to Trial in Premises Liability Action

In Beverly v. Hardee’s Food Systems, LLC, a couple went to a Tennessee fast food restaurant for breakfast. Immediately after entering the establishment, the husband slipped and fell in a puddle that was on the floor. As a result, the man sustained an injury to his right ankle. The entire incident was caught on tape by restaurant security cameras.

The mother of the child who caused the puddle apparently exited the restaurant with her children at about the same time the injured man entered the building. Although she was aware of the spill, the woman apparently failed to notify restaurant workers about the dangerous condition. While several patrons allegedly witnessed the child cause the puddle, no one notified the store workers about the slippery substance on the floor. Video evidence showed that the child caused the puddle about three minutes before the man fell. Although the video established that no employees were in the area prior to the man’s fall, it showed that the customer service counter was less than 20 feet away from the location of the puddle.

As a result of the accident, the man filed a premises liability case against the restaurant. In his complaint, the hurt man accused the fast food establishment of being negligent by failing to warn him of the dangerous puddle and failing to maintain the property. In response, the business denied that it acted negligently and filed a motion for summary judgment. Summary judgment may be granted when there are no material facts in dispute, and one party to a lawsuit is entitled to judgment in its favor as a matter of law.

According to the store, the business could not be held liable for the accident because it lacked actual or constructive knowledge regarding the puddle. The restaurant also claimed the man failed to exercise reasonable care when he slipped on an open and obvious hazard.

Following a hearing, the trial court ruled that the plaintiff failed to establish the restaurant had actual or constructive knowledge that the puddle was on the floor. As a result, the court granted the restaurant’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of the defendant’s notice regarding the hazard. Still, the court denied the fast food restaurant’s motion for summary judgment based on the hurt man’s comparative fault because reasonable minds could disagree regarding whether the man should have seen the puddle before he fell.

On appeal to the Court of Appeals of Tennessee, the man argued the trial court committed error when it granted the restaurant’s motion for summary judgment because the evidence offered in support of the plaintiff’s claim was insufficient. According to the appellate court, a trier of fact could infer that the restaurant had constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition based on the evidence offered. Because of this, the court reversed and remanded the trial court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of the restaurant on this issue. In addition, the appeals court affirmed the lower court’s order refusing to grant summary judgment in favor of the restaurant based on the injured man’s alleged comparative fault.

The seasoned attorneys at the Hartsoe Law Firm, P.C. assist personal injury victims across Eastern Tennessee with seeking the financial compensation they deserve based on the severity of their harm. To speak with a veteran Knoxville personal injury lawyer about your premises liability case, call the Hartsoe Law Firm, P.C. at (865) 524-5657 or contact us online.

Additional Resources:

Beverly v. Hardee’s Food Systems, LLC, Tenn: Court of Appeals 2015

More Blog Posts:

Appeals Court Vacates Order Dismissing Wife’s Loss of Consortium Claim With Prejudice in Tennessee Medical Malpractice Case, June 24, 2014, Knoxville Injury Lawyer Blog

Knoxville Appeals Court Overturns Summary Judgment in Premises Liability Case, May 27, 2014, Knoxville Injury Lawyer Blog

 

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