Louisiana Appellate Court Reverses Summary Judgment for Daycare Center in Premises Liability Trip and Fall Lawsuit

empty wooden stairsIn a recent opinion from the Louisiana Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal, the plaintiff appealed a judgment from a trial court granting summary judgment on behalf of the defendant, a daycare center.  The plaintiff filed suit against the daycare center after she suffered an accident while picking up her minor son. The plaintiff was 32 weeks pregnant at the time the incident occurred. As the plaintiff was exiting the building, she was carrying her 18-month-old son and using her cell phone when she fell down stairs located at the entrance of the building. According to her petition for damages, her injuries included a fractured tibia and fibula. Her older child experienced bruising and a broken clavicle. Although no one witnessed the accident, people soon arrived to assist the plaintiff, and she was taken to the hospital.

In her petition, the plaintiff sought damages from the daycare center claiming that it was liable for failing to warn her of the dangerous nature of the stairs and for allowing the defective stairway to persist on its premises. In response to these allegations, the daycare center alleged that the plaintiff was comparatively at fault and that her decision against using the handrail while talking on the phone and holding her baby was the cause of her injuries.

After the parties completed discovery, the defense filed a motion for summary judgment alleging that based on the testimony of the plaintiff and an expert witness who examined the allegedly defective stairway, the plaintiff could not prove that the stairway was defective, that any defective condition was the cause of her injuries, and that the daycare facility knew or should have known that a dangerous condition existed on the property. The plaintiff opposed this motion, stating that genuine issues of material fact regarding whether the stairway was defective remained and that summary judgment was not proper. The court ruled in favor of the daycare center, and the plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the plaintiff’s primary assignments of error included a claim that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment because the expert witness’s report pointed out a number of defects in the stairway. The plaintiff did concede that she was unable to identify exactly what caused her to fall but stated that trip-and-fall victims frequently are unable to pinpoint the exact cause, due to the suddenness of the incident. Reviewing the expert’s report, the appellate court concluded that a genuine issue did exist, specifically regarding causation. The court added that even if the report did not raise genuine issues of material fact, there was a genuine issue regarding whether the lack of a handrail on the left side of the stairway created a defective condition that caused the injury to occur.

If you or someone you love has been injured as a result of a property owner’s failure to maintain his or her premises in good working order, you may be entitled to compensation. Louisiana places clear burdens and responsibilities on property owners to ensure that their property is free of defective conditions and to provide appropriate warnings to guests. At Dué Guidry Piedrahita Andrews L.C., we have assisted many Louisiana residents with seeking compensation after a devastating premises liability incident, and we are standing by to help you assert your rights. To schedule your free consultation, call us now at 1-800-929-7481 or contact us online.

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