I read in the law journal today about a premises liability case that was recently dismissed. The plaintiff was a woman who tripped over a wheelchair as she was getting up from a slot machine at a casino. The wheelchair was pulled off to the side, with the wheels partly jutting out into the isle where the woman was seated. The wheel chair was not owned by the casino. The Court found that the casino wasn’t liable because it didn’t place the wheelchair there, or had any notice that it was there.
Why am I talking about a case that was lost? Firstly, as a plaintiff’s lawyer, I do empathize with the woman because she was injured. However, her loss illustrates the difficulties in bringing this type of premises liability case. In order for the casino to be liable, it would have had to been shown that the casino created the dangerous condition, or had notice that it was there. In this case, it couldn’t be shown that the casino created the condition by placing the wheelchair there; they did not. Also, it couldn’t be shown that the casino knew (or should have known) the wheelchair was there sticking out into the isle, and failed to move it away. All that could be shown was that the wheelchair was there, with no other explanation. That fact is not enough for the plaintiff to prevail.
Don’t let this entry fool you into thinking these premises liability cases are impossible. They can be won. There are factors which can show that a landowner or tenant created a dangerous condition or had notice of one. These cases are so fact specific that an injured person’s lawyer must dig deep into what happened, request records, do interviews and depositions, look for video. A carefully constructed premises liability case can be successful. Even a careful constructed case may not prevail, the woman and casino case shows. However, consulting with a lawyer experienced in premises liability cases can maximize a victim’s chance for success.