Earlier this month in Rhode Island, the state supreme court heard a case regarding the responsibility of a private business to maintain the public sidewalk immediately outside the business. The court ultimately determined that a private business does not have a duty to maintain the sidewalk and also does not need to warn pedestrians of potentially dangerous hazards on the sidewalk.
Maguire v. City of Providence
In the recent case, Maguire v. City of Providence, the plaintiff was a disabled woman who used crutches to get around. Evidently, one day while in front of an Old Navy store, her crutch became lodged in a hole in the sidewalk, and she fell to the ground as a result, seriously injuring herself. Afterwards, she filed a civil lawsuit seeking damages from the Old Navy store, as well as from a nearby restaurant, based on the theory of premises liability.
Premises liability is a legal doctrine that holds landowners accountable for injuries that occur due to hazardous conditions on their land. The law places a duty on all landowners to maintain safe premises for all those who are invited to enter and, in some cases, may even impose a duty for trespassers. The highest duty is owed to customers who are invited onto a property to conduct business.
The Case at Trial
At trial, the defendants claimed that they could not be named in the suit because they had no duty to the plaintiff. They claimed that the sidewalk was public property and that, as private businesses, they should not be required to maintain the sidewalk.
The court agreed with the defendants, dismissing the case. The court explained that only in situations where the defendant was using the space, or did something to create the hazardous condition, could a private company be expected to warn passers-by of a danger on the sidewalk.
The court noted that the restaurant used a small portion of the sidewalk during a few months in the summer, presumably for a hostess stand. However, the court also noted that the plaintiff failed to establish that this use of the sidewalk created the hazard that caused her injuries.
In the end, the plaintiff’s case was dismissed against both Old Navy and the restaurant.
Have You Been Injured on the Property of Another?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured while on the property of another, you may be entitled to monetary damages based on the property owner’s failure to maintain safe premises. However, as you can see, naming the proper defendant in the lawsuit is a crucial step that cannot be overlooked. In most cases, a plaintiff only has one chance to bring a case, and if he or she makes a mistake in leaving a party off the lawsuit, the chance to recover may be forever lost. To learn more about Illinois premises liability accidents, call (516) 394-4200 and set up a free initial consultation with an attorney today.
See Other Blog Posts:
New York Nursing Home Successfully Sued for $2 Million After Negligent Care Led to Stage-IV Bedsore, Long Island Injury Lawyers Blog, September 29, 2014.
“Special Knowledge” Jury Instruction Required Reversal of Verdict in Plaintiff’s Favor, Long Island Injury Lawyers Blog, September 29, 2014.