Kentucky Derby party fall case sent back to lower courts for more proceedings

by Mandy Hicks

 Businesses and landowners have a responsibility to keep their property safe for visitors. Of course, not every accident will result in a finding of liability because the plaintiff must prove that the defendant knew or should have known about the dangerous condition that caused the fall or other injury and should have taken reasonable steps to prevent harm to those who would be expected to come onto the property for a business purpose or as a social guest.

Commonly referred to as “premises liability” or “slip and fall” cases in the legal system, lawsuits arising from injuries on business property or another person’s land are often hotly contested by the owner of the property where the accident occurred. Often, the defendant will seek the dismissal of the case early in the process, and the court must decide whether the plaintiff has enough evidence to go to trial.

Facts of the Case

In the unpublished opinion of Ward v. JKP Investments, LLC, the plaintiff was a woman who fell on the steps outside a building where she was attending a Derby party in May 2012. As a result of the fall, the woman’s wrist was injured. She filed suit against the landlord and the owner of the property. The defendants sought – and were granted – summary judgment by the Jefferson Circuit Court.

Decision of the Kentucky Court of Appeals

Upon consideration of the legal issues presented by the parties, the court reversed the lower court’s decision, vacated the judgement, and remanded the case for further proceedings. Although the trial court had accepted the defendants’ argument that they were not liable for the woman’s damages because the condition of the steps upon which she fell was open and obvious, thus absolving them of a duty to guard against possible dangers, the appellate court disagreed.

According to the court, two decisions were released by the state’s supreme court in 2013 (after the trial court’s entry of summary judgment in the current case) that substantially altered premises liability law in Kentucky. Previously, a defendant’s liability was excused when a condition was obvious. Under current law, however, a further factual inquiry was required before a decision could be made. The court noted that a pre-existing handrail had been removed from the steps upon which the plaintiff fell. Since there were sufficient questions of fact to preclude summary judgment, the case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.

If You Have Questions About a Possible Lawsuit

It takes an experienced attorney to fully understand both the law and the procedural requirements – as well as the loopholes defendants try to create – in personal injury cases. Businesses and insurance companies do not like paying out settlements or judgments to injured people, and they try hard to avoid liability whenever possible. To level the playing field, you need an knowledgeable and aggressive personal injury or wrongful death lawyer standing up for your rights. To schedule a free consultation with a member of our team, call English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley today at (270) 781-6500. We accept cases throughout Tennessee and Kentucky, including in Bowling Green, Glasgow, and Hopkinsville.

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