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Plaintiff’s Own Actions Deemed an “Intervening Cause” of His Injuries, Resulting in Summary Judgment for Defendant

Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a negligence case brought by a man who was seriously injured when his apartment caught fire after a gas explosion. In the man’s case against the gas company, the court determined that while the gas company may have been negligent in failing to lock the meter after it detected a leak, the plaintiff’s own actions were deemed an intervening cause that severed the initial chain of causation. Thus, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision to grant the summary judgment in favor of the defendant.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was moving into a new apartment. Before he moved in, the owner of the apartment arranged for the gas to be turned on. A technician from the gas company came to the property, turned on the gas, and noticed that the meter indicated there was a leak somewhere in the home’s gas system.

The technician filled out a warning card and left it with the girlfriend of the plaintiff’s son-in-law, who was the only one present at the time. The warning indicated that the gas meter was left in the off position because there was a leak that needed to be fixed. The card also explained that the system was left unlocked, so once the leak was fixed, a plumber could turn the system on. This was in direct violation of the gas company’s policy to always leave the meter off and locked when there was a gas leak detected.

When the plaintiff returned home, he was given the warning card left by the technician. Not fully understanding the card, the plaintiff called a plumber to turn the gas on without arranging for the leak to be fixed. Once the gas was on, the plaintiff attempted to light an incense to get rid of the home’s “old smell.” However, upon striking the lighter, the leaking gas exploded, seriously injuring the plaintiff.

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the gas company, arguing that the technician was negligent in failing to lock the meter. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the gas company, finding that the technician’s negligence was not the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. The plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the verdict was affirmed, albeit for slightly different reasons. The appellate court did not go as far as to say that the technician’s actions were not the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Instead, the court held that even if the technician started the chain of events that ultimately led to the plaintiff’s injuries, the plaintiff’s own actions in disregarding the warning card and turning on the meter were an intervening cause of his injuries.

The court explained that the presence of an intervening cause acted to sever the chain of causation set in motion by the technician’s alleged negligence. Thus, the court determined that summary judgment was appropriate under the circumstances.

Have You Been Injured in a South Florida Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of South Florida accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your injury, you may be entitled to award amounts for your past and future medical expenses, lost wages, and any pain and suffering you experienced as a result of the defendant’s negligence. Call the South Florida law firm of Cecere Santana at 800-753-5529 to set up a free consultation with a dedicated and experienced personal injury attorney. Calling is free and will not result in any obligation unless we can help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

More Blog Posts:

Court Permits Lawsuit Filed by Motorist Injured by Escaped Farm Animal, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published January 17, 2017.

Claims Against Florida Public Entities Are Subject to Strict Notice Requirements, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published January 2, 2017.

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