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Jury Verdict in Premises Liability Lawsuit Reversed by Appellate Court

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.

Wooden FencePlaintiff Is Injured at a Park that Was Operated by the Defendant

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.

Judgment Reversed on Appeal Because the Plaintiff Failed to Show What the Defendant Could Have Done to Address the Unsafe Fence

The defendant appealed the verdict to the state high court, where it was ultimately reversed on legal grounds. The court found that the plaintiff must show that the defendant’s negligence was the legal cause of his injuries, and the plaintiff failed to do so. In a West Virginia or Florida premises liability claim, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant was on actual or constructive notice of an unsafe condition on their property before damages can be awarded. Constructive notice is defined as circumstances in which a reasonable person in the defendant’s position should have known about the defect, whether they actually were aware of it or not. Finding that the plaintiff presented no evidence as to the defendant’s actual or constructive notice of the unsafe condition, the jury’s award was reversed.

Should You Contact an Attorney?

If you or a loved one has been injured by an unsafe condition on somebody else’s property, a premises liability claim may get you the compensation that you deserve. A successful Florida negligence claim requires several elements to be met for a plaintiff to be awarded damages, and a failure to present evidence that meets one or more of these elements can prevent a plaintiff from getting relief, even when the negligence seems obvious to the casual observer. The Florida personal injury attorneys at Cohn & Smith are experienced in trying all types of South Florida personal injury and premises liability cases. We know how to prove each element of our clients’ claims, and our dedicated lawyers will work our hardest to seek the compensation that you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, contact the South Florida law firm of Cohn & Smith at 954-431-8100. Our aggressive injury attorneys will fight for the compensation that you deserve. We have offices throughout South Florida and can assist you with your Fort Lauderdale, Pembroke Pines, or Davie injury case.

Related Blog Posts:

What May Constitute a Florida “Medical Malpractice” Case Can Be Surprising, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, June 3, 2016.

Florida Boating Accidents on the Rise, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, May 19, 2016.

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