Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a premises liability case brought by a woman who slipped and fell on some loose stones outside a home improvement store. In the case, Piotrowski v. Menard, the court ultimately held that the plaintiff’s bare-bones assertion that the stones’ presence could have been due to the negligence of a store employee was insufficient to survive summary judgement, and the case was dismissed.
Piotrowski was shopping at the defendant’s home improvement store with her husband when she slipped and fell outside the store’s entrance, fracturing her elbow. After she got up from her fall, she noticed that two small stones had caused her to lose her balance. She filed a premises liability lawsuit against the store, claiming that they were negligent in either creating the dangerous condition (the loose stones) or failing to remedy a known dangerous condition.
At the summary judgment proceeding, evidence was presented that not far from where Piotrowski fell, there was a planter filled with river rock. A store manager testified that store employees would occasionally have to refill the planter with river rock because the level of rock in the planter would decrease over time. One witness testified that children would play in the planter and occasionally inadvertently track the small rocks out with them as they left the planter.
Piotrowski claimed that this evidence was sufficient to survive summary judgement; however, the court disagreed. The court explained that it is the plaintiff’s burden to prove liability. In a premises liability case such as this one, that can be done in two ways:
- By proving that a store employee caused the dangerous condition to be in existence; or
- By proving that a store employee knew or should have known about the dangerous condition but failed to remedy the condition.
The court held that Piotrowski presented insufficient evidence of each theory.
The court’s issue with Piotrowski’s argument was that it relied on her assumption, rather than on any evidence. Without any evidence, a bare-bones assertion that a plaintiff believes something caused her injury is insufficient to survive summary judgment. As a result, the appellate court affirmed the lower court’s granting of summary judgement in favor of the home improvement store.
Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Slip-and-Fall Accident?
Accidents happen. But most of the time, accidents are preventable. If you have recently been injured in an Indiana slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation from the responsible party. A skilled personal injury attorney can assist you with the preparation of your case by conducting an in-depth investigation into the cause of your accident. This investigation may turn up critical information that a court may use to establish liability. The skilled injury attorneys at Parr Richey Obremskey Frandsen & Patterson have decades of collective experience handling Indiana personal injury cases, and we understand how to conduct a thorough and effective investigation into our clients’ cases. Call 888-532-7766 to set up a free consultation today.
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