The highest civil appellate court in the state of West Virginia recently made a ruling that will void an award of over $55,000 that was given to an injured plaintiff by the jury after a premises liability trial. The high court ruled that the plaintiff never made an adequate showing that the defendant’s alleged negligence was the legal cause of the plaintiff’s injuries, and without such evidence the plaintiff could not receive any damages as a matter of law. Based on the recent opinion, the plaintiff will be unable to collect any compensation for the injuries he suffered when a fence he was leaning on broke, sending him falling down a hill and causing injuries.
The plaintiff in the case of Wheeling Park Commission v. Datolli was a man who was injured while he was visiting a West Virginia public park that was operated by the defendant. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the plaintiff needed to rest while he was at the park, and he decided to lean against a fence atop a small hill because there were no benches in the area for him to have a seat. After briefly inspecting the split-rail fence and noticing no defects, the plaintiff leaned on the top rail of the fence, which became dislodged from the fence post and resulted in the plaintiff falling down the hill, seriously injuring his shoulder.
Plaintiff Files a Premises Liability Case Against the Park Commission
The plaintiff later filed a premises liability lawsuit against the park commission, seeking damages for his medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering related to the accident. At trial, the plaintiff called the operations manager of the park as a witness, who testified that the fence was over 20 years old and could be subject to decay, although the Park Commission could not show that they had repaired or maintained the fence in question. After the trial, the plaintiff was awarded damages for the medical expenses and lost wages that he incurred as a result of the accident, although his claim for pain and suffering damages was denied by the jury.