Court rules in favor of Tennessee hospital in premises liability lawsuit

by Mandy Hicks

Generally speaking, businesses such as retail stores, restaurants, and even hospitals have a duty to keep their premises in a reasonably safe condition. When a business fails to do so, it can be held liable for the resulting physical injuries (or even a guest’s wrongful death). Those injured or the family of someone who died can file a premises liability lawsuit.

However, such cases are sometimes difficult to prove, and the plaintiff has the burden of establishing the defendant’s liability. If the plaintiff is unable to make out a case of negligence, he or she will not be able to recover any monetary damages, regardless of the severity of the injuries sustained in the accident.

The Facts of the Case

In the case of Landrum v. Methodist Medical Center, the plaintiffs were a husband and wife who filed a premises liability lawsuit against the defendant hospital, seeking compensation for injuries that the wife suffered when she slipped and fell in a puddle of water near a nurse’s station. The wife’s injuries included a fractured kneecap, which required surgery.

In their complaint, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendant owed them a duty of care and that the defendant, through its employees or agents, had breached that duty by failing to either clean up the puddle in which the wife fell or warn her about it.  The hospital countered that, since the wife had equal or superior knowledge regarding the puddle, the danger to her was open and obvious. The hospital also argued that it had no actual or constructive knowledge of the allegedly dangerous condition where the wife fell.

The trial court granted summary judgment to the hospital, and the couple appealed.

The Appellate Court’s Decision 

Phrasing the issue as whether the trial court erred in granting summary judgment to the defendant, based upon the plaintiffs’ failure to demonstrate that the defendant had either actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision. In so holding, the court noted that there was no evidence in the record that indicated the source of the puddle in which the wife fell, nor was there any evidence that indicated that one of the defendant’s employees should have discovered the puddle before the wife’s fall.

Notably, the wife testified that she had traversed the same route not more than 15 minutes prior to her fall and that she did not notice the puddle until after she had fallen. Thus, the court opined that there was no material evidence from which a jury could infer that the puddle had existed for such a length of time that the defendant should reasonably have been expected to discover it.

If You Have Been Injured in a Slip and Fall Accident

Premises liability cases can be difficult, but it helps to have a thorough, knowledgeable injury or wrongful death attorney on your side. To schedule an appointment with an experienced Kentucky slip and fall attorney, call English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley for an appointment at (270) 781-6500. There is no charge for the initial consultation.

Related Blog Posts:

Woman’s death from fall into glass display case does not constitute premises liability

Kentucky Court examines slip and fall injury case, ruling in favor of the injured