Saturday, March 29, 2014
TN COA REVERSES DISMISSAL OF SLIP AND FALL CASE INVOLVING INADEQUATE LIGHTING
Before or during the function, an owner of The Lodge in charge of the event turned on some exterior lights. However, the lights installed and intended to illuminate the parking area and walkway leading to The Lodge were not operative. As Ms. Christian walked from The Lodge to her car she stepped into a hole in the parking area which could not be seen in the dark. She suffered personal injuries which resulted in more than $50,000 in medical expenses. She later sued The Lodge for its negligence in failing to provide adequate lighting on the walkway and parking area for guests.
The Lodge asked the Circuit Court for Campbell County to dismiss the case claiming that: (1) it had no notice that the lights in question were out and (2) despite the lack of lighting Ms. Christian was more than 50 percent at fault for her fall and injuries. In other words, the company who operated The Lodge for profit claimed that it had no idea its lights did not work and that if Ms. Christian could not see in the dark that was her problem. The Lodge maintained this disingenuous defense even after The Lodge staff testified that: 1) the owner was in fact aware that the lights for the walkway and parking area were inoperative before the evening function; 2) they had no procedure for the inspection and maintenance of the exterior lights; and 3) the day after the fall and injury The Lodge staff inspected the lights and found as many as 14 exterior flood lights inoperative including those for the walkway and parking area.
Despite The Lodge's clear and actual notice of its inoperable lights, its failure to inspect or replace the lights, and the danger created by the lack of lighting, the Circuit Court inexplicably dismissed the case. The Circuit Court found that there was insufficient evidence to show that The Lodge had notice of the lighting issue prior to Ms. Christian's fall - despite The Lodge's own apparent admission to the contrary.
Ms. Christian appealed, and on March 28, 2014, the Tennessee Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the Circuit Court properly finding that a jury could reasonably find that : 1) The Lodge had actual notice of the inoperative lights, the associated danger and a duty to act reasonably to remedy the issue; and/or 2) the lighting problem existed long enough that The Lodge through reasonable care and diligence should have discovered the danger and replaced the lights. The case was remanded for trial by jury on all issues. Read the full opinion here.