To win a Tennessee premises liability lawsuit, the plaintiff has the burden to provide sufficient evidence in support of the claim. In some cases, the defendant will ask the court to decide the matter before trial in a motion for summary judgment. In an August 29, 2017 case, the Court of Appeals of Tennessee decided whether a lower court properly granted a summary judgment motion in favor of the defendant, which was appealed by the plaintiff.
The plaintiff in the case was at the Bridgestone Arena attending a concert when she slipped in a pool of liquid near the concession area and fell. As a result of the fall, she sustained injuries to her left knee, which required two surgeries. The plaintiff filed a premises liability action against the owner and manager of the arena, alleging that they were negligent in failing to maintain the arena in a reasonably safe condition. The defendants argued that they had no actual or constructive knowledge of the spill.
In order to prevail on a negligence claim, the plaintiff must prove the elements of duty, breach, injury, and causation. In premises liability cases, the premises owner has a duty of reasonable care to prevent injuries to people lawfully on the property and to remove or warn against hidden, dangerous conditions of which the owner is aware or should be aware through due diligence. Owners have no duty to remove or warn of dangerous conditions that were unknown or could not have been discovered by the owner. Accordingly, if a third party created the dangerous condition, the plaintiff must also prove that the premises owner had actual knowledge or constructive notice that the dangerous condition existed before the plaintiff was injured.
The plaintiff in the case admitted that the defendants did not have actual notice of the spill on the concourse floor. The issue, therefore, was whether the defendants had constructive notice of the spill. Constructive notice can be established by proving that a dangerous condition existed for such a length of time that a reasonably prudent property owner should have been aware of its existence, or proving that the dangerous condition resulted from a pattern of conduct or a recurring incident. The plaintiff in the case argued that several spills and at least two other falls that night at the arena indicated a recurring incident and pattern of conduct.
On appeal, the court looked for evidence that the dangerous condition previously occurred in the same area, or near where the plaintiff was injured. The court noted that although the record indicated that 33 spills occurred throughout the arena prior to the plaintiff’s fall, only two of those occurred near the area where she fell. The court went on to explain that the theory of constructive notice generally requires more than a random occurrence, and the plaintiff had failed to demonstrate that the liquid spills in the area where she slipped had occurred with such regularity that the dangerous condition was reasonably foreseeable to the defendants. As a result, the appeals court affirmed the summary judgment order.
The dedicated Nashville attorneys at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard assist plaintiffs in bringing personal injury claims against negligent defendants. We can provide guidance and legal representation to people involved in car accidents, premises liability cases based on slip and falls, medical malpractice, and other dangerous situations caused by negligence. To discuss your case with one of our injury lawyers, call Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard at (615) 800-7096 or contact us online and schedule an appointment.