Articles Posted in Premises Liability

Trying a lawsuit, such as a South Carolina premises liability case, in front of a jury requires close attention to not only the state’s rules of civil procedure but also a particular judge’s local rules and even the scheduling orders in a particular case. A mistake or failure to take certain action in a timely fashion can be costly.

Of course, a trial court judge’s ruling on such matters is subject to review by the court of appeals in most instances. The appropriateness of a judge’s decision to exclude certain evidence based on a procedural failing is something that must be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Facts of the Case

When members of the general public think about lawsuits in which a person has been injured or killed due to another party’s negligence (such as a South Carolina premises liability case), they may envision the case going to trial and a jury deciding whether the defendant was negligent and, if so, the amount of compensation to which the plaintiff is entitled.

However, not every plaintiff gets to have a jury decide his or her case. Often, the defendant in a personal injury or wrongful death case will file what’s known as a “motion for summary judgment.” In reviewing such a motion, the trial court judge is called upon to decide whether, in viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, there are genuine issues of material fact. Only if the answer is “yes” does the case proceed to a jury trial.

Facts of the Case

It seems that everywhere one turns these days, there’s someone asking for a signature on a waiver, a release document, or a contract agreeing – in advance – to arbitration of a dispute that has not yet occurred.

The goal, of course, is to usurp the signer’s right to a trial by jury, thereby limiting or even eliminating liability for personal injuries or wrongful death caused by the negligence of the entity asking for the document.

Fortunately, not every such agreement is upheld by the courts. It all depends upon the particular situation and the language of a given document.

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Building a case of negligence against a person or business that one believes caused an accident (such as a car wreck or a slip and fall at a restaurant) is a multi-step process. The first step is establishing that the party from whom the plaintiff seeks to recover money damages owed a legal duty of care to the plaintiff. Whether or not a duty exists is usually a legal question that revolves around the relationship between the parties. The second step of a negligence claim is proving that the defendant breached the duty of care that was owed to the plaintiff; this is usually a factual question. The remaining elements are harm to the plaintiff and causation between the defendant’s breach of duty and the harm to the plaintiff.

When the parties disagree about whether the plaintiff has produced sufficient evidence of these elements to proceed to trial, the trial court may be called upon to decide (via a summary judgment motion) whether the defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, even if all of the plaintiff’s allegations are construed in the light most favorable to him or her. A party aggrieved by a trial court’s decision on a motion for summary judgment has a right to appeal the court’s order to a higher court.

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Everyone who drives an automobile should have liability insurance to pay medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering to a passenger, motorist, or pedestrian who is injured as a result of the driver’s own negligence. Otherwise, any judgment in a negligence lawsuit brought against the driver could be collected from his or her personal assets.

There are many types of liability insurance in addition to automobile liability polices. You might be interested to know that various types of businesses have special liability insurance policies to cover business-specific negligence claims. This includes businesses that sell or serve liquor. Bars and nightclubs may purchase this insurance to cover a judgment against them as a result of a “dram-shop” action based on the negligent sale or over-serving of alcohol that results in injuries or death to a third party.

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Those who own and operate places of business have a duty to keep their premises reasonably safe for customers and other business invitees. This includes the duty to protect guests from criminal activity in some situations. However, the burden is on the injured person to prove that the property owner acted negligently.

The issue in such cases is often whether the attack was reasonably foreseeable, given such factors as the location of the establishment and any history of violence in the area.

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Do you have insurance on your home? Do you know what it covers?

As a recent case shows, if you have homeowner’s liability insurance, you might think you are covered for more situations than you actually are. It’s always a good idea to review your policy from time to time so that you understand exactly what is – and is not – covered.

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