Earlier this month, a West Virginia court issued a written opinion in a premises liability case brought by a man who suffered a shoulder injury when he fell after leaning on what turned out to be a damaged handrail. The court in the case of Wheeling Park Commission v. Dattoli determined that the injured man’s case against the park was incomplete in that the man failed to submit any evidence regarding the duty the park had to maintain the handrail.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff and his wife were visiting the park to attend a concert. Since there was no seating available when they arrived, they ended up standing near a fence that protected visitors from inadvertently falling down a nearby hill. The plaintiff, looking for a place to lean, quickly visually inspected a handrail on the fence and then placed his weight against it. As he did so, the rail snapped at both ends, causing the plaintiff to fall down the hill. As a result of the fall, the man suffered a rotator cuff injury requiring surgery and months of physical therapy.
The plaintiff and his wife filed a premises liability lawsuit against the park, arguing that the park’s management was negligent for failing to keep the park safe. Specifically, they argued that it was negligent to allow the handrail to decay to such an extent that the weight of a single person leaning up against it could cause the rail to break.
At trial, the plaintiffs called the park’s Director of Operations, who admitted that the rail had not been replaced since sometime between the 1970s and the 1990s. The Director also admitted to not having any maintenance records, and that it was reasonable to assume that the wooden handrail had a life expectancy at the end of which it should be replaced. Both parties rested after the Director’s testimony, and a jury awarded the plaintiff approximately $55,000 in damages.
On appeal to a higher court, the park was successful in arguing that the plaintiff failed to provide sufficient evidence of his negligence claim. Specifically, the park argued – and the court agreed – that in order to be found negligent, there must have been some evidence presented that the park’s management knew the handrail was in poor condition. Since there was no such evidence presented by the plaintiffs, the jury was legally prevented from finding that the park management was negligent.
Have You Been Injured on the Land of Another Party?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured while on public property, or the private land of another party, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Each case is viewed under the specific facts presented, and while the result in this case was disappointing to the plaintiff, the outcome may be different in other situations. There are also other variables to keep in mind, including the skill and dedication of your attorney. The skilled premises liability attorneys at Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse have the experience and know-how to successfully bring any personal injury case in an Indiana court. Call 888-532-7766 to set up a free consultation today.
Appellate Court Determines When Evidence of a Party’s Lack of Insurance is Admissible at Trial, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, May 2, 2016
Girl Struck by Car While Boarding School Bus Seeks Recovery from Bus Driver’s Insurance Company, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, June 3, 2016