bristol tn slip and fall in wet restroom

Customer’s Choice to Use Restroom With Wet Floor Doesn’t Block Slip and Fall Lawsuit

A common defense in slip and fall accident cases is that the dangerous condition was so obvious that a reasonable person should have avoided it, and so that the injured plaintiff’s choice to enter the area was a primary cause of the accident. However, a recent Tennessee Court of Appeals ruling shows that claims of obvious hazards may not be a complete defense for property owners.

In Vaughn v. DMC-Memphis, LLC, plaintiff Tina Vaughn took public transportation to the defendant medical center for two appointments. During the trip, she developed the need to use a restroom. When she got to the medical center, she immediately went to a restroom on the first floor. Upon entering the restroom, she noticed standing water on the floor. Vaughn testified she knew there was another restroom on the first floor, but it was some distance away. As she walked on the wet floor towards the area where stalls were located, she slipped and fell, suffering injuries.

A lower court granted the defendant medical center’s motion to dismiss the case on two grounds: (1) the plaintiff knew there was water on the floor yet still used the restroom, so the defendant did not owe her a duty of care and (2) the plaintiff was more than 50 percent negligent herself, so her lawsuit was barred by Tennessee’s comparative negligence law.

As for the first ground, the appellate court held that the lower court improperly relied solely on the plaintiff’s acknowledgement that there was water on the restroom floor in determining whether the defendant owed her a duty of care. The court should have examined other factors, such as the ability of the plaintiff to use the other restroom, before dismissing the case. Regarding the second ground, the appellate court said that whether the plaintiff was more than 50 percent negligent should be decided by a jury, not a judge.

If you slipped, tripped or fell on someone’s property, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your injuries. The Vaughn case points to the necessity of consulting with an experienced Tennessee slip and fall attorney. What might seem to be a simple case could evolve into a complex matter involving contested facts and complex legal arguments.

Massengill, Caldwell & Coughlin, P.C. has over 75 years of combined legal experience protecting the rights of personal injury victims in Bristol, Kingsport, Johnson City and throughout Upper East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. For a free initial consultation, call us today at 423-797-6022 or contact us online. Our office is conveniently located in Bristol, and we offer hospital or home visits to accident victims and their families.