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Articles Posted in Premises Liability

Where plaintiffs, who were suing on behalf of an employee of an independent contractor on a construction project, alleged facts sufficient to meet the “minimum threshold of foreseeability” against the defendant general contractor, and where discovery had not yet occurred to allow for the inspection of the contracts between the relevant parties, dismissal of plaintiffs’ wrongful death claim against the general contractor was reversed.

In Thompson v. Southland Constructors, No. M2019-02060-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 6, 2020), plaintiffs were the decedent’s children, who had died while working as a plumber on a construction project. The project involved building a new gym for Welch College, and before the decedent’s involvement in the project, a different plumping company had laid a sewer line. The day before the gym was scheduled to be used for the first time, general contractor Southland Constructors discovered that the sewer line had not actually been connected to the building before it was buried. Southland then called Mitchell Plumbing, the decedent’s employer, and the decedent was sent to connect the pipe. According to the complaint, Southland advised Mitchell Plumbing that the trench dug to correct the problem would be about 15 feet long and 3 feet deep, but it ended up being both longer and deeper. The complaint alleged that no materials were used to shore up the trench based on the representations made by Southland, that the general contractors failed to have traffic stopped at a nearby parking lot, and that the “soil in the area was in an especially dangerous condition because it was wet and loose due to the previous excavation.” Soon after the decedent got into the trench to repair the sewer line, the walls collapsed, and he was killed.

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Where a residential tenant and property owner both knew about a leak which formed a puddle of water that caused plaintiff to slip, defendants property owner and property manager were not liable for plaintiff’s injuries and summary judgment was affirmed.

In Richardson v. H & J Properties, LLC, No. W2019-02082-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 21, 2020), plaintiff moved into a triplex apartment owned and operated by defendants in March 2014. In the following months, she reported leaks in her laundry room and adjoining room several times. On September 10, 2014, she again reported a leak in this area of her apartment. The next day, a maintenance worker was sent to the apartment to repair the leak, and while plaintiff was showing him the issue, she slipped and fell in a “small pool of water” that had been caused by the leak, breaking her ankle.

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Where a middle school student was injured when he tripped on his backpack strap, beginning a chain of events that knocked down a chair that was stacked on top of a table and injured his hand, summary judgment was affirmed based the lack of a dangerous condition and the injury not being foreseeable.

In Landry v. Sumner County Board of Education, No. M2019-01696-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. June 30, 2020), plaintiff was an 11-year-old student sitting with friends in his school cafeteria as he waited for the bell to ring to begin the school day. At this school, the chairs were always placed upside down on the top of the tables the day before so the custodians could clean. In the mornings, the kids would take down a chair to sit. On this particular morning, plaintiff’s backpack strap had unknowingly become wrapped around the leg of his chair. When plaintiff stood to leave, he tripped on the strap. As he fell, he pushed his chair away, and that chair hit a chair that was still upside down on a table. The upside down chair fell and hit plaintiff’s hand, severing the tip of one of his fingers.

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Where plaintiff slipped on ice in a hotel parking lot during a snowstorm, summary judgment for defendant hotel was affirmed.

In Chittenden v. BRE/LQ Properties, LLC, No. M2019-01990-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. July 15, 2020), plaintiff checked into defendant hotel during a snowfall that had already produced two inches of snow on the ground. It was still snowing when plaintiff went to his hotel room. When plaintiff left his room fifteen minutes later, it was still snowing, and he slipped in the parking lot. Plaintiff brought this premises liability action, and the trial court granted summary judgment, which was affirmed on appeal.

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Where defendant introduced no material evidence at trial to support a finding that plaintiff was 77% at fault for a fall cased by a faulty automatic door, the jury’s verdict was vacated.

In Gilmore v. NOL, LLC A/K/A Premier Radiology, No. M2019-01308-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. May 27, 2020), plaintiff* was an 84-year-old physical therapy patient. When she was exiting defendant’s building after her physical therapy appointment, “the automatic door closed while she was standing just outside the threshold of the doorway,” causing her to fall and break her arm and leg.

Plaintiff filed a negligence and premises liability suit against defendant, and defendant asserted the defense of comparative fault in its answer. After a jury trial, the jury returned a verdict finding plaintiff 77% at fault and defendant 23% at fault, meaning that plaintiff did not recover any damages. Plaintiff filed a motion for a new trial, which the trial court denied. On appeal, plaintiff asserted that the trial court used the wrong standard in its role as thirteenth juror and that there was no evidence to support the comparative fault finding.

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Where a premises liability plaintiff produced photographs showing possibly damp conditions around a gas pump where she fell, testified that the EMTs who arrived to help her slipped, and relied on an incident report stating that the store was “not for sure if it was slick from oil or gas,” plaintiff had shown that there were genuine issues of material fact and summary judgment for defendant was reversed.

In Wilson v. Weigel Stores, Inc., No. E2019-00605-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Cr. App. May 19, 2020), plaintiff was fueling her car at defendant convenience store. As she stepped towards her car to get trash out, she slipped and fell. Two EMTs came to help plaintiff, and the manager at the store took photos of the area, completed an incident report, and wrote down another customer’s contact information who had witnessed the incident.

Plaintiff filed this premises liability case, and plaintiff, the EMTs, the store manager, and an HR representative from defendant were deposed. Plaintiff testified that her foot slipped, though she admitted that “she did not see any oil, gas, or spills before or after her fall…” Plaintiff also claimed that the two EMTs “both slipped and almost fell while tending to her.”

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Where a grocery store lessee was not responsible for maintaining its parking lot under its lease, but it had repeatedly exercised control over the parking lot area where plaintiff fell, the Court of Appeals found that it had “assumed a duty to maintain the parking lot[.]”

In Jones v. Earth Fare, Inc., No. E2019-00450-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. April 15, 2020), plaintiff slipped and fell in a puddle of antifreeze in defendant grocery store’s parking lot. Another customer had previously fallen in the same puddle and informed the manager on duty, who came out to see the puddle. The manager then went back inside the store to get cat litter to put on the puddle, but she stopped to help another employee. During this time, plaintiff exited the store and slipped in the large puddle of antifreeze.

Plaintiff filed this premises liability case against several defendants, including defendant grocery store. The grocery store filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that “it had no legal or contractual duty to maintain the area where [plaintiff] fell” and that parking lot maintenance was the responsibility of its landlord. The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment, but the Court of Appeals reversed.

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Where plaintiff alleged that a magazine stand at a grocery store checkout was a dangerous condition, but she had no evidence regarding how long the condition had existed and no proof that the magazine stand had caused any other falls, summary judgment for defendant was affirmed.

In Lyon v. Castle Retail Group, LLC, No. W2019-00405-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. April 14, 2020), plaintiff filed a pro se premises liability action after falling in defendant’s grocery store. Plaintiff alleged that the metal foot of a magazine display rack was “protruding from the base of [the rack] in the checkout area,” and that she caught her foot on the metal, causing her to fall. After plaintiff’s fall, her companion returned to the store and took pictures of the magazine rack. He also took pictures of the rack in the years following plaintiff’s fall.

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Where a tenant brought a premises liability claim against a landlord based on a loose piece of wood at the top of stairs inside an apartment, but the evidence showed that the tenant and landlord walked through the apartment before the lease began and neither noticed the allegedly dangerous condition and that plaintiff himself lived in the apartment for a month and a half without becoming aware of the loose wood, summary judgment for the landlord was affirmed.

In Fisher v. Villages at Henley Station, LLC, No. M2018-01990-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 24, 2020), plaintiff rented a townhome from defendants. The townhome had been built about eight months before the lease began, and plaintiff was the first resident. Before the lease was signed, plaintiff did a walkthrough of the townhouse with the property manager, and neither of them noticed a problem with the stairs. Plaintiff lived in the home for approximately one and a half months, using the stairs daily with no problem, but then suffered a fall that he alleged was caused by a plank of wood not properly connected at the top of the stairs. The evidence showed that plaintiff had not noticed the issue before his fall and that no other tenants had experienced such an issue.

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Where an independent contractor working at a convenience store had been told that the store had been robbed before, neither the landlord nor the operator of the store were liable when he was injured in an armed robbery.

In Priestas v. Kia Properties, LLC, NO. W.2019-00728-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 18, 2019), plaintiff worked as an independent contractor for a convenience store run by one defendant, which was in a property owned by the other defendant. Plaintiff was hired when he stopped at the store one night upon seeing multiple police cars there, and was told there had just been a robbery. Plaintiff was hired to work “a few hours a day to perform tasks such as stocking the store’s coolers and cleaning up inside and outside the store.” The owner told plaintiff that the store “had been burglarized/robbed on several prior occasions,” and plaintiff informed the owner that he would carry a concealed firearm when working. Approximately two months after he began working, plaintiff was shot during a robbery. Plaintiff was attempting to wrestle a gun from an armed robber when the shooting occurred.

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