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Tennessee Court of Appeals Reverses Summary Judgment, Saying Jury Should Decide if Woman’s Choice to Use Flooded Restroom Was Reasonable

In a Knoxville premises liability lawsuit, the burden of proof rests on the plaintiff. Accordingly, he or she must have credible evidence proving that the defendant breached the duty of care that was owed to him or her under the circumstances.

Unfortunately, evidence of the proper owner’s negligence can disappear quickly. The accident scene may change when an employee cleans up the spill in which the customer slipped and fell. Video surveillance may be “recorded over” if not preserved. Even information about eyewitnesses may be lost over time.

Because of the compelling need to avoid spoliation of the evidence in a slip and fall case, it is important that the plaintiff seek legal counsel in a timely fashion. This can also help avoid the running of the statute of limitations, which is quite short for such matters in Tennessee.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent appellate court case arising in Shelby County was a woman who slipped in fell in standing water in a restroom on the defendant landowner’s property. The case was originally filed in the General Sessions Court of Shelby County and resulted in judgment for the defendant. The plaintiff appealed the case to the Circuit Court of Shelby County. The defendant then filed a motion for summary judgment. The circuit court granted the defendant’s motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

Decision of the Court

The Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Jackson vacated the circuit court’s order and remanded the case for further proceedings. The circuit court had sided with the defendant on its summary judgment motion after finding that the plaintiff had actual notice of the wet floor before she attempted to traverse it and that, therefore, she could not establish the element of duty in her negligence action against the defendant. The appeals court, however, concluded that reasonable minds could differ as to whether the plaintiff had been presented with a reasonable alternative to using the flooded restroom under the circumstances. In so holding, the court noted that the plaintiff had asserted that her need to use the restroom was “urgent.” In the court’s view, it was up to the jury to determine whether the plaintiff should have sought out an alternative restroom or whether she was held “captive” by the flooded restroom that she chose to use and in which she slipped and fell, causing injuries to her person.

Speak to a Premises Liability Attorney in Knoxville

Cases alleging that a slip and fall accident was the result of a business owner’s negligence can be difficult to win. This does not mean that such cases are impossible, only that it is very important that the injured individual seek an attorney’s services as soon as possible so that evidence of the landowner’s negligence may be property preserved. Otherwise, the proof needed in order to prevail in the case can easily slip away, making it extremely difficult for the plaintiff to win at trial. For an appointment to discuss a possible trip and fall case with an attorney experienced in such matters, call the Hartsoe Law Firm at 865-524-5657 or contact us through this website.

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