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Tennessee Court Denies Premises Liability Claims of Pro Se Plaintiff

water spillBringing claims in a Tennessee courtroom can be expensive. Getting a case ready for trial takes extensive preparation, discovery, and long days and nights thinking through the details of the case. This means that fees can add up, and lawyers may seem too expensive to consider. In these circumstances, some plaintiffs decide to go it alone in their case, acting as a pro se plaintiff, or a plaintiff without representation, in the courtroom. A recent case before the Tennessee Court of Appeals illustrates the complexity of bringing a premises liability lawsuit without an attorney and the care that must be taken in proving all of the elements of a negligence or failure to warn claim.

In this case, the plaintiff, S.R., was injured after she slipped and fell while seeking treatment at a local emergency room. When she entered the emergency room, she slipped on a clear liquid on the floor, resulting in a hard fall. S.R. experienced injuries to her back, hip, and ankle as a result of the fall. Almost a year afterward, S.R. filed a complaint in court, alleging that the hospital where she fell, St. Francis Hospital, knew the liquid was on the floor but failed to clean it up, which led to her fall. She alleged negligence and failure to warn. St. Francis Hospital denied the allegations and filed a motion for summary judgment. It argued that S.R. could not actually show that St. Francis Hospital or its employees were aware of the liquid, how long it had been on the floor, or how the spill was created. In response, S.R. stated that two St. Francis employees had told her that they knew there was Sprite on the floor and that they meant to clean it up but had not yet done so.

In response to these allegations, the court granted S.R. additional time to take discovery, including depositions of the witnesses, in order to prove that these conversations occurred. S.R. failed to do so, and, after the additional time had expired, the court granted summary judgment. S.R. appealed.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals held that while pro se plaintiffs are entitled to special consideration, they are bound by the requirements of the law. Here, the laws of negligence required that S.R. show that St. Francis Hospital knew there was liquid on the floor and failed to warn about it or deal with it, or that they should have reasonably known about the liquid. S.R. failed to show any of these things when she did not depose the witnesses whom she alleged had information about the spill. In the absence of such witness testimony, the appellate court agreed with the lower court that it could not allow S.R.’s claims to proceed on the basis of mere speculation. It further stated that S.R. clearly should have made an effort to depose these individuals or other witnesses who could support her claim, but she had not done so. In the absence of any support for the notion that St. Francis Hospital knew or should have known the liquid was on the floor, the court upheld the grant of summary judgment.

Proving the elements of a premises liability claim can be difficult, particularly without the guidance of an attorney. Knowing which witnesses you need to depose and how to effectively prove your case often requires legal knowledge. Experienced premises liability attorney Eric Beasley has years of experience helping clients evaluate their claims and develop a cost-effective approach to trial. If you have recently been in an accident and are uncertain about your rights, contact the Law Office of Eric Beasley today at 615-859-2223.

Related Blog Posts:

Tennessee Court Emphasizes That Dangerous Conditions Must Cause Actual Harm, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, February 3, 2016

Tennessee Court Finds Lack of Knowledge of Dangerous Condition Sufficient For Summary Judgment, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, July 7, 2016

What Constitutes a Known Dangerous Condition in Tennessee?, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, June 7, 2016