Articles Posted in Premises Liability

Where the trial court granted summary judgment to defendant store in a premises liability case based on the finding that there was no dangerous condition, but the plaintiff’s appellate brief only addressed the issue of notice, summary judgment for defendant was affirmed.

In Williams v. Dollar General Corporations, LLC, No. E2023-00702-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 6, 2024) (memorandum opinion), plaintiff entered a Dollar General store operated by defendant while it was lightly raining. Plaintiff was wearing slides, and the store had a mat at the front and a wet floor sign. Plaintiff’s shoe got caught on the mat and plaintiff fell, injuring herself.

Plaintiff filed this premises liability claim against defendant, and defendant moved for summary judgment on several grounds. In support of its motion for summary judgment, defendant submitted a seven-minute video containing excerpts of security camera footage, as well as a longer, unedited version of the footage. At the motion hearing, the trial court stated that it was unable to view the longer version of the video due to technical issues, and it offered plaintiff the opportunity to play the longer version, which plaintiff declined.

Where plaintiff was an employee of the company that leased a building, and she brought a negligence and negligence per se claim against the owner of the building after she fell off a staircase that allegedly was not up to code, summary judgment for the building owner was affirmed; plaintiff, plaintiff’s employer, and defendant landlord had co-extensive knowledge of the allegedly dangerous condition.

In Lewis v. Fletcher, No. W2022-00939-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 29, 2023), plaintiff was going down a set of stairs at the entrance of the building leased by her employer when she fell off the stairs and was injured. The stairs had a handrail on only one side.

Plaintiff filed a complaint asserting negligence and negligence per se against the building owners, who were not the original builders of the property. The trial court granted summary judgment to defendant building owners “based on the rule of non-liability of a landlord to its tenant or third parties when the landlord and tenant have coextensive knowledge of the condition of the property[.]” (internal citation omitted). On appeal, summary judgment was affirmed.

Where claimant tripped on a laptop cord while participating in a class activity, but she had no evidence showing how long the cord had been there or who put the cord there, the Claims Commission’s finding that the professor of the class was not negligent was affirmed.

In Bryant v. State, No. W2022-00968-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 14, 2023), claimant was a student in an occupational therapy class at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. During one class, the teacher set up an activity which required the students to walk to different areas of the room to fill out papers. The professor testified that she checked the area for hazards while setting up the activity and that she asked all the students to move their personal belongings so that they would not be in the way. The professor further stated that both before and during the activity, she did not see a cord in the floor. The evidence showed that the other students in the class had already walked in the area of the fall without issue. In addition, the professor had done this activity three other times and never had an issue.

Claimant testified that she did not see the cord before she fell, but instead saw it several minutes after she fell. Some of her deposition testimony conflicted slightly with her trial testimony, but she testified that no other classmates reported that they had seen the cord or had an issue with the cord.

Where plaintiff set up his own ladders on cardboard at defendant’s home, and defendant had no control over the set-up, summary judgment for defendant was affirmed on plaintiff’s premises liability claim arising from injuries sustained when the ladders slipped.

In Fulghum v. Notestine, No. M2022-00420-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 31, 2023), plaintiff and defendant were close friends. Plaintiff was a carpenter, defendant was a truck driver who was knowledgeable about car repairs, and plaintiff and defendant would often help each other with projects using their own expertise.

Defendant was remodeling his home, and plaintiff was installing shiplap around defendant’s fireplace. On the day of the injury, plaintiff let himself into defendant’s house, set up two of his own ladders, and decided to put cardboard under the ladders to protect defendant’s new floors. Plaintiff set up the two ladders next to each other on the cardboard in an attempt to work more efficiently. Defendant did not assist with or direct the set up. At some point while plaintiff was working, defendant arrived home and briefly chatted with plaintiff. Sometime thereafter, the ladders slipped, causing plaintiff to fall, and plaintiff was seriously injured.

A premises liability judgment for plaintiff was affirmed where plaintiff slipped and fell on a wooden bridge at defendant apartment complex, representatives of defendant had stated that the standard of care required that the bridge be power washed at least annually, and the evidence showed that the bridge had not been power washed in at least several years.

In Trentham v. Mid-America Apartments, LP, No. M2021-01511-COA-R3-CV, 2023 WL 163547 (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 12, 2023), plaintiff was a tenant in defendant’s apartment building. Plaintiff’s building was connected to the clubhouse fitness facility by a wooden bridge. On the day of plaintiff’s injury, it had rained the night before and was possibly still drizzling. Plaintiff used the bridge to access the fitness room, and when walking back across the bridge after his workout, plaintiff slipped on what he described as a clear, slippery substance that was “obviously not just water.” Plaintiff could not get his footing to stand up, and an employee of defendant could not get plaintiff back to his feet, so an ambulance was called.

Plaintiff’s fall caused severe injury to his left quadriceps tendon, requiring surgery. The first surgery was unsuccessful, and plaintiff underwent a second revision surgery. That surgery was also unsuccessful, and at the time of the trial plaintiff was left with permanent disability from the incident.

Where a roofer was injured when he fell from a homeowner’s roof and bounced over the nearby scaffolding, but the homeowner had rented the scaffolding himself and chosen to erect it himself rather than paying the scaffolding company to install it, summary judgment for the scaffolding company on both the premises liability and general negligence claims was affirmed because the scaffolding company owed no duty to either the roofer or the homeowner.

In Lynch v. Poe, No. M2021-00867-COA-R3-CV, 2022 WL 4112706 (Tenn. Ct. App. Sept. 9, 2022), plaintiff was a roofer who was injured while working on a homeowner’s roof. While replacing shingles on the roof, plaintiff slipped and fell, bounced over the scaffolding, and fell to the ground. According to plaintiff, he was unable to stop himself on the scaffolding because guardrails had not been installed thereon.

The homeowner who had hired the roofing company had entered into a separate contract with DSS, an equipment company, and rented scaffolding from them. Although DSS offered scaffolding installation for a fee, the homeowner chose to install the scaffolding himself. While the homeowner had some experience with smaller projects, he admitted that this “scaffolding project was more involved than any project he had undertaken.” Although DSS employees visited the home a few times to bring scaffolding pieces and one DSS employee warned against using cinder blocks to level the scaffolding based on what he observed at the home, “at no point did [the homeowner] request or indicate to DSS that he would like an inspection of the scaffolding he had installed or that he would like to purchase the scaffolding installation service.”

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Where defendant governmental entity did not own the park where plaintiff was injured, and plaintiff was attending a concert in the park when she fell, summary judgment based on both the GTLA and Recreational Use Statute was affirmed.

In Costner v. Maryville-Alcoa-Blount County Parks & Recreation Commission, No. E2021-00189-COA-R3-CV, 2022 WL 3092906 (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 3, 2022), plaintiff was attending a concert in a park when she stepped into a hole covered by grass clippings and broke her ankle. The park was owned by the City of Alcoa but controlled by the Maryville-Alcoa-Blount County Parks and Recreation Commission (the Commission).

Plaintiff initially filed a premises liability case against the City of Alcoa, but later filed an amended complaint naming Alcoa, the City of Maryville, Blount County, and the Commission as defendants. The trial court first granted summary judgment to Alcoa, Maryville and Blount County, finding that Alcoa did not control the park, and Maryville and Blount County neither owned nor controlled the park, both of which are required to remove immunity under the GTLA. The Commission later filed its own motion for summary judgment, arguing that it was immune from suit under the GTLA and Recreational Use Statute. The trial court agreed, granting the motion, and summary judgment was affirmed on appeal.

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Where a premises liability plaintiff tripped when her shoe heel went into a small divot in an outdoor stairway that was “mere centimeters thick,” summary judgment for defendant was affirmed on the basis that the divot “amounted to a minor aberration and…the defendants did not owe her a duty of care.”

In Tino v. Walker, No. M2021-01230-COA-R3-CV, 2022 WL 2794096 (Tenn. Ct. App. July 18, 2022), plaintiff was shopping at a shopping center area in Nashville. After leaving one store, she exited down a set of outdoor brick stairs, and the heel of her shoe caught in a small divot in the brick on the second-to-last step, causing her to fall.

Plaintiff filed this premises liability suit, and defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted summary judgment to defendants, finding that “because the defects complained of were small aberrations, the foreseeability and gravity of harm considerations [did] not support a finding of liability on the part of Defendants,” and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

Where plaintiff’s deposition created a “dispute of material fact” as to whether defendant had actual notice of the alleged dangerous condition in this GTLA premises liability case, summary judgment for defendant was reversed.

In Vaughn v. Coffee County, Tennessee, No. M2021-00653-COA-R3-CV, 2022 WL 1652552 (Tenn. Ct. App. May 25, 2022) (memorandum opinion), plaintiff was an inmate at defendant county’s jail. Plaintiff alleged that the toilet in his cell leaked, causing water to accumulate in the floor, which caused him to slip and badly injure his hip one day when he was hurriedly getting his plate of food from an officer at the front of his cell. Plaintiff admitted that he was aware of the water and even stated that he had slipped in the water a few days prior to this incident.

Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, which the trial court granted based on its ruling that plaintiff had not presented proof from which the court could find that defendant had notice of the allegedly dangerous condition. On appeal, this ruling was reversed.

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Where plaintiff was injured while mowing a common area of his neighborhood, but plaintiff did not have permission to mow in the common area and permission was required by the neighborhood covenants, summary judgment in favor of defendant in this premises liability case was affirmed.

In Walker v. Rivertrail Crossing Homeowner’s Association Inc., No. W2020-01201-COA-R3-CV, 2022 WL 852904 (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 23, 2022), plaintiff and his wife lived in the Rivertrail neighborhood and were members of the defendant homeowner’s association (HOA). Plaintiff’s home was adjacent to a common area that included a retaining wall at the edge of the neighborhood property, and plaintiff complained to a member of the HOA board that the ivy covering a portion of this common area was an eyesore. The board member told plaintiff to submit his concerns in writing to the HOA, but plaintiff failed to do so. Instead, plaintiff attempted to cut the ivy using his riding lawnmower, and when he encountered a trough that was covered by ivy and not visible, he was thrown from the mower and injured.

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