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.
Facts of the Case
In the recently decided (unreported) case of Jackson v. OSI Restaurant Partners, LLC, the plaintiff was a woman who was hurt on the premises of an Outback Steakhouse restaurant in Sumter County, South Carolina. She filed a premises liability lawsuit against the defendants, who owned or managed the restaurant. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The plaintiff appealed.
Decision of the South Carolina Court of Appeals
In a per curiam opinion, the appellate court reversed the lower court’s order and remanded the case for further proceedings. Although the defendants had convinced the trial court that they did not owe a duty of care to the plaintiff under the circumstances of the case, the appellate court disagreed. Since the plaintiff was an invitee of the restaurant, the defendants owed her a duty to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition. Given the defendants’ own expert witness’ opinion regarding the improper slop of the curb ramp where the plaintiff fell, the court found that the plaintiff had presented “at least a scintilla of evidence” that the ramp presented a dangerous condition. Thus, it was an error for the trial court to grant summary judgment on the plaintiff’s negligence claim.
Talk to a Lawyer About Your South Carolina Personal Injury Case
The simple fact is that those who act negligently, carelessly, or recklessly do not like to admit that their actions hurt someone. In some ways, this is understandable. Accountability is sometimes a bitter – and expensive – pill to swallow. Still, those who are hurt by others’ wrongful actions should receive fair compensation for their injuries. Knowledgeable Spartanburg personal injury attorney Patrick E. Knie can help you pursue the compensation to which you are entitled. For a free consultation in Spartanburg or Greenville, call us today at (864) 582-5118.
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