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Tennessee Federal Court Upholds Jury Verdict in Favor of Customer Who Was Hurt in Department Store Slip and Fall Accident

In Corley v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, a Tennessee woman injured her knee when she slipped on water that was spilled on the floor of an Antioch department store. As a result, the woman filed a premises liability and negligence lawsuit against the store in the Middle District of Tennessee in Nashville. Following trial, jurors issued a $525,000 verdict in favor of the woman and stated the department store was 90 percent responsible for her harm. In response to the jury verdict, the store filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law or new trial.

Before considering the department store’s motion, the Middle District of Tennessee stated a motion for judgment as a matter of law may only be granted in situations where “reasonable minds could come to but one conclusion.” The court stated there must be a lack of disputed facts and it must be clear that the moving party is entitled to judgment in his or her favor in order to prevail.   In addition, the federal court said a motion for a new trial is appropriate where jurors reached a “seriously erroneous result” that was against the weight of the evidence, excessive, or somehow unfair.

At trial, whether the department store committed negligence was in dispute. In order to show negligence occurred, an injured person is required to demonstrate that the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff, the defendant breached that duty, and the breach caused the plaintiff’s harm. In a Tennessee products liability action, the owner of a business owes customers a duty to exercise reasonable care in protecting them from a dangerous condition or defect the owner or an agent of the owner created. Additionally, a business owner must reasonably protect customers from a hazardous condition that another party caused if the owner had actual or constructive knowledge of the danger.

According to the Nashville court, jurors in the case were properly instructed that the store had a duty to exercise reasonable care in removing known safety hazards on the premises. The injured woman argued at trial that the store had constructive notice the water she slipped on was spilled on the floor. In addition, she provided video evidence indicating the water was on the floor for at least an hour. As a result, the federal court stated a reasonable jury could conclude the video provided sufficient evidence the department store had constructive notice about the hazard. The federal court added that the jury was free to accept or reject the department store’s various theories regarding how and when the water came to be on the floor based on the evidence offered at trial.

Next, the Middle District of Tennessee dismissed the store’s claim that the jury’s verdict was erroneous because the video evidence absolved the business of liability. According to the court, the jury could have reasonably determined the water was on the floor during the entire length of the video because the video quality was poor and failed to contradict the woman’s account of her injury accident. In addition, the court disagreed with the store’s claim that the water hazard was unforeseeable because the evidence offered at trial demonstrated such spills were common at the business.

Finally, the federal court stated apportionment of fault is a question for jurors in Tennessee. The Nashville court held there was no reason to disregard the presumption that the jury determined comparative fault correctly in the case. Because the evidence supported the jury’s verdict, the Middle District of Tennessee denied the department store’s motion.

The skilled lawyers at the Hartsoe Law Firm, P.C. help individuals who were hurt as a result of an Eastern Tennessee property owner’s negligence receive the damages their injuries merit. To discuss your premises liability case with a diligent personal injury attorney today, please call the Hartsoe Law Firm, P.C. at (865) 524-5657 or contact us through our website.

Additional Resources:

Corley v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, Dist. Court, MD Tennessee 2015

Related Blog Posts:

Primary UIM Insurer May Not Offset Medical Payments Made by Injured Passenger’s Insurance Company in Tennessee, February 18, 2015, Knoxville Injury Lawyer Blog

Tennessee Court Denies Grocery Store’s Motion for Summary Judgment in Premises Liability Case, January 21, 2015, Knoxville Injury Lawyer Blog


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