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Tennessee Court of Appeals affirms summary judgment to defendant in premises liability case

shiny floorWhen a lawsuit is filed for compensation for injuries in an accident allegedly caused by another party’s negligence, there are several ways that the case can be concluded. The most obvious ways are by an out-of-court settlement or a jury verdict in favor of one party or the other.

There is another, less commonly known, possible resolution for negligence cases known as “summary judgment.” When a court grants summary judgment, it is usually (although not always) in favor of the defendant, and it means that, even if the court looks at all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, there is no way that the plaintiff’s case can be successful at trial.

If the plaintiff disagrees that summary judgment was an appropriate end to the case, he or she can ask the appellate court to review the matter.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case decided by the Court of Appeals of Tennessee, the plaintiff was a woman who allegedly slipped and fell in a clear liquid that was on the floor of an emergency room at a hospital. The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the defendant, seeking compensation for injuries to her back, hip, and ankle. In her lawsuit, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant had been negligent in its maintenance of the premises, had failed to warn her about the dangerous condition that caused her fall, or had failed to inspect the premises to ensure that the floor was safe for visitors.

The defendant’s answer asserted the affirmative defense of comparative fault against both the plaintiff and a certain housekeeping management service. The plaintiff amended her complaint to include the housekeeping service as a party defendant; the service, in turn, denied liability and alleged that the plaintiff and the hospital were negligent.

Ultimately, the trial court granted summary judgment to both the hospital and the housekeeping service. The plaintiff appealed.

The Appellate Court’s Decision

Although the plaintiff raised several issues on appeal, the court found that only one issue was properly preserved for appellate review:  did the trial court err in granting summary judgment to the defendants? After duly considering the plaintiff’s arguments, the court affirmed the lower court’s order.

The court first observed that a trial court’s decision with regard to a summary judgment motion is a question of law, and thus its review of the order in question was de novo with no presumption of correctness. In making a fresh determination as to whether the moving parties had met their burden of showing that there were no genuine issues of material fact and that they were entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the court found that the defendants had met their burden.

In so holding, the court ruled that the plaintiff had failed to provide any proof as to the cause or source of the liquid in question. Without evidence that the defendants had either actual or constructive notice of the liquid, the court held that there was no way that the trier of fact could find in the plaintiff’s favor at trial. Thus, summary judgment to the defendants was appropriate.

Tennessee Injury Attorneys Currently Reviewing Cases

If you or a loved one has been hurt due to another party’s negligence, you should talk to a lawyer about the possibility of filing suit to seek compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering caused by the accident. The knowledgeable Tennessee slip-and-fall accident attorneys at English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley, LLP, can help. For a free consultation, call us today at (270) 781-6500. Our offices are conveniently located in Bowling Green, and we serve clients in both Kentucky and Tennessee.

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