A slip-and-fall at the grocery store, tripping on a cracked sidewalk, getting hurt at an amusement park, or being hit by a piece of broken-down playground equipment – they can all seem simply like unfortunate accidents at the moment. But they can cause serious harm, maybe even death.
And it’s possible that negligence on the part of the owner or caretaker of the property was a significant factor contributing to the incident.
That’s where premises liability comes into play. A person, business or government entity could be at fault for failing to maintain a property or otherwise prevent injury. Plaintiffs sometimes receive multi-million-dollar verdicts or settlements to compensate them for the pain and difficulties they have endured. Here is a round-up of some big payouts of late.
- Jumped at Six Flags Over Georgia, $35 million: A teenager visiting an amusement park in Georgia was brutally beaten by a group of gang members that included one of the park’s employees, who was off-duty at the time. The teenager suffered permanent brain damage from the attack. The state’s highest court issued a ruling in 2017 affirming the verdict, and finding that the park was liable for breaching its duty to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises safe for invitees. Although the victim moved off of the property while the fight was occurring to try to escape the attackers, that did not absolve the park from liability, the court found.
- Hit by a tree while camping, $47.5 million: A boy who lost a leg after a falling tree hit him at a Northern California campground received a settlement from the county, its contractor and utility PG&E to compensate him for his injuries. A rotten 72-foot-tall tree crushed the boy’s tent while he slept, crushing his leg and his pelvis. Doctors determined it was necessary to amputate the leg and part of his buttocks to save his life.
- A fall during a piggyback ride, $3 million: A woman won a $3 million settlement in April from the City of Los Angeles for injuries she suffered after a man who was giving her a piggyback ride tripped on a crumbling sidewalk. The incident happened during a night of revelry on New Year’s Eve. Despite complicating circumstances (namely that they were two adults behaving childishly), but a court found that it was unclear whether she or the city was at fault, potentially leaving the question up to a jury. So the city decided to settle.
- A swing-set collapse, $20 million: A then-15-year-old boy in Las Vegas sat down on a swing in 2013 to send a text message. A 42-pound metal beam supporting the swing-set fell and crashed down on his head, causing severe skull and brain injuries. A jury in February found the homeowners association in charge of taking care of the playground was negligent and should shoulder the cost for the young man’s injuries, awarding him $20 million.
- Slip-and-fall at a Walmart, $7.5 million: An Alabama resident was reaching for a watermelon while shopping at a Walmart but ended up with a severely fractured hip. The man, a 59-year-old veteran, was struggling to grab one of a towering pile of melons when his foot became caught in a wooden pallet, and he fell crashing to the floor. His hip was broken badly enough that he now must use a walker permanently. A jury awarded $7.5 million last year.
Premises liability is a complex area of law where serious injuries can result in multi-million dollar verdicts like these. In most cases, common sense safety practices could have avoided the tragic and serious injuries.