Summary Judgment Granted / Trip and Fall at Car Dealership

Rotting Wood

Attorney James Wood successfully obtained summary judgment in favor of a car dealership/service provider in a case where an individual claimed that she had tripped and fallen due to a raised step located between a hallway and a waiting area at the dealership.

The subject incident arose when an employee of the dealership directed the plaintiff to the waiting area after the plaintiff had checked in to get her car inspected.  There was a raised 1-2 inch step between the hallway and the waiting area, and the employee had not said anything about the step to the plaintiff.  It was undisputed that there was a warning sign in the area of the step (that was being blocked from view by another customer) and warning tape on the step.  The plaintiff testified that she fell in the area of the step and she assumed she fell because of the step’s presence.  The plaintiff brought a claim for negligence against the dealership on the grounds that the step was a defect in the premises and an unreasonably dangerous condition that caused her to fall and break her ankle.  The plaintiff also brought a loss of consortium claim, arguing that his relationship with his wife was negatively impacted due to her injuries.

Throughout discovery and depositions, Attorney Wood pursued support for the proposition that the plaintiff could not specifically identify what had caused her to fall, and could not provide any evidence that the step was a defect in the premises.  The plaintiff opposed the motion, arguing that the step was a defect in the premises because it was a high traffic area, the warning sign was blocked, it was obviously a defect because the defendant placed warning tape and a warning sign there, and the step could have been easily remedied.  Regarding the causation argument, the plaintiff responded that the plaintiff told the medical responders that the cause of her fall was the step, and a witness indicated it must have been the step that made the plaintiff fall.

Attorney Wood filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that there was no evidence that the plaintiff had fallen due to tripping on the step, and secondly, there was no evidence to establish that the step was inherently a dangerous condition or defect.  The court agreed that the plaintiff had not put forth any evidence of a causal link between her injuries and any alleged breach of a duty owed to her.  The court also agreed that there was nothing inherently dangerous about the subject step, particularly where the defendant had put up a warning sign and warning tape.  Therefore, as a matter of law, the court held that the plaintiff could not prevail on her negligence claim.  Because the plaintiff could not recover on her negligence claim, summary judgment was also entered in the defendant’s favor on the loss of consortium claim filed by the plaintiff’s husband.

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