The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently reviewed a negligence case in which the trial court granted summary judgment against an injured plaintiff. In Hall v. Gaylord Entertainment Company, the plaintiff slipped and fell at the top of an ice slide attraction while attending a holiday-themed ice exhibit, sustaining injuries to his arm. The plaintiff filed a negligence action against the company that constructed the ice slide. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed.
On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the defendant breached its standard of care in designing the ice slide, relying on the American Society of Testing Materials safety standards for children’s playground equipment. The defendant contended that it was entitled to summary judgment because the ice slide was designed and constructed in accordance with the accepted standard of professional care. The defendant relied on the opinion and affidavit of its expert, a certified amusement ride inspector with 20 years of experience in providing design, development, and risk management services. The expert testified that the design of the ice slide complied with safety standards in the amusement ride industry. The defendant also presented an affidavit from the production manager, who testified that he inspected the ice exhibit prior to its public opening and in three-hour intervals throughout the day.
In order to prove a claim of negligence in Tennessee, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, the conduct of the defendant fell below the applicable standard of care and amounted to a breach of that duty, the defendant’s actions proximately and actually caused the injury to the plaintiff, and damages resulted. In many cases, these elements will be established through the testimony of experts. When filing for summary judgment on a negligence claim, the moving party has the ultimate burden of persuading the court that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The burden then shifts to the non-moving party to demonstrate the existence of a genuine issue of material fact requiring trial.
In Hall, the appeals court found that the plaintiff’s evidence, which relied on the American Society of Testing Materials safety standards, was not relevant because it is applicable to playground equipment for children, and not ice slides. The court therefore held that the plaintiff failed to meet his burden in responding to the defendant’s motions. In addition, the court evaluated the evidence of the defendant, noting that it satisfied its burden, and it ultimately held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant.
Personal injury cases can be difficult to prove, but an experienced attorney can identify the facts most favorable to your case in order to present a persuasive case to a judge or jury. The Nashville trial attorneys at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard understand that premises liability cases require careful attention to detail, thorough preparation, and courtroom experience. We represent accident victims involved in slip and falls, motor vehicle collisions, medical malpractice, and other harmful events. Contact our offices to discuss your case at (615) 800-7096 or online.