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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

New "Premises Liability" Case: Directed Verdict for the Defense Reversed on Appeal; Court Reminds Us That Causation and Fault Are Generally Questions for the Jury

The Tennessee Court of Appeals just issued its opinion in Wilson v. TMBC, LLC,  No. 2013-01907-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. May 27, 2014).  The summary from the opinion states as follows:
The plaintiff took his bass fishing boat to defendant’s business for it to repair a “rodbox lid” that did not fit properly. While the boat was there, defendant replaced the lid. Subsequently, plaintiff went to the defendant’s store and got in the boat, which was on a trailer in the parking lot, in order to examine the new lid. While attempting to exit the boat, plaintiff caught his foot on something, tripped, and fell out of the boat. Plaintiff’s theory was that an employee of the defendant had negligently left the old rodbox lid inside the boat and that plaintiff tripped over the old lid. At the close of plaintiff’s proof, defendant moved for a directed verdict, arguing that (1) plaintiff failed to prove breach of duty because, according to defendant, he offered no evidence of the object that caused his fall; and (2) defendant could not, as a matter of law, be liable because plaintiff was at least 50% at fault for his injuries. The trial court directed a verdict for defendant. We hold that plaintiff presented sufficient proof that the old lid caused him to trip and fall, and that a reasonable trier of fact could conclude that the employee had negligently caused plaintiff’s injury. We further hold that the question of comparative fault is properly for the jury to decide under the proof presented at this trial. We therefore vacate the directed verdict and remand for further proceedings. 
Here is a link to the opinion:

NOTE: in this case, at trial, a directed verdict was granted to the defense.  The Court of Appeals does a good job analyzing the law on this subject, and, again, reminds us that causation and fault are generally questions for the jury.

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