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Plaintiffs Must Submit Evidence of Each Element before Being Entitled to Compensation in Any Personal Injury Lawsuit

In most cases alleging that one party’s negligence caused another party’s injuries, the lawsuit is based on the legal theory of negligence. Before a negligence lawsuit is even permitted to go to trial, a judge must determine that a prima facie case of negligence exists. This is a question of whether, taking all evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the plaintiff has made out a bare-bones case. If not, the court is proper in dismissing the lawsuit before submitting the case to a jury.

Weathered FenceIn negligence cases, there are four elements that must be met:  duty, breach, causation, and damages. In other words, a plaintiff must establish that the named defendant violated some duty of care that they owed the plaintiff, and the plaintiff was injured as a result of that breach. A plaintiff’s failure to submit proof of any of these elements can result in the court dismissing the case at the summary judgment stage. This is exactly what happened to a husband and wife who sued a local park for damages after the husband injured himself while leaning on a fence.

The Facts of the Case

In the case of Wheeling Park Commission v. Dattoli, the plaintiffs were a couple who were attending a concert at Wheeling Park. The couple arrived too late to find seating for the event, so they ended up standing at the top of a hill near a fence. As the night went on, Mr. Dattoli looked for a place to take some of the weight off his legs, and he leaned against the nearby split-rail fence. However, as he did so, the fence collapsed, sending Mr. Dattoli down the hill. As a result, he injured his shoulder.

The Dattolis filed a lawsuit against the Park’s management, arguing that it was negligent in the maintenance of the fence. The Park’s Director of Operations testified at the trial, explaining that he didn’t have any maintenance records for the fence, but he did know that the fence was made of wood and would eventually need to be replaced. It also came out that the fence had not been replaced since at least the 1990s and maybe as far back as the 1970s.

However, despite the evidence against the Park, an appellate court reversed the jury verdict in favor of the plaintiffs because the plaintiffs failed to show that the Park’s management knew that the fence was damaged. This, the court explained, was a failure to prove the “breach” element of the negligence analysis. In other words, without proof that the Park’s management knew that the fence needed repair, there was no duty that was breached. As a result, Mr. Dattoli will not be permitted to recover compensation for his injuries.

Have You Been Injured in a Florida Slip-and-Fall Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been the victim of a South Florida slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Depending on the facts of your case, you may have several obstacles to overcome prior to being awarded compensation. The skilled lawyers at the South Florida personal injury law firm of Cecere Santana have decades of combined experience bringing cases on behalf of their injured clients, and we know what it takes to succeed on our clients’ behalf. Call 800-753-5529 today to set up a free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Unexplained South Florida Accidents May Be the Result of Distracted Driving, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published May 3, 2016.

Topamax Birth Injury Case Results in $3 Million Verdict, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 9, 2016.

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