A lady went to her see her accountant at his office. She entered the office and conducted her business there but as she was exiting the office, she tripped and fell by the office door. She filed a case for damages from the personal injury she sustained during her trip and fall. She claimed that the accountant negligently left the welcome mat by the door to become rolled up and this is what caused her to trip and falland because of which, she suffered personal injury. She alleged that the mat was a tripping hazard left there by the accountant.
During pre-trial the accountant requested a deposition to be made of the lady. During her deposition, she stated that she did not know what caused her to trip and fall as she went through the door on her way out of the accountant’s office. She also testified that she did not notice the mat at any time when she went into the office or any time before she fell. It was only when she had already fallen that she noticed that the mat was rolled up.
When the issues had been joined before the trial court, the defendant filed a motion asking that the case be submitted for summary judgment. The trial court dismissed the complaint.
The only issue before the Supreme Court was whether or not the trial court erred in dismissing the complaint against the accountant. The Supreme Court upheld the dismissal.
Under the law, the accountant can only be made liable for the lady’s trip and fall if there was any evidence presented that there was a dangerous or defective condition existing in the accountant’s office; there must also be evidence that the accountant created the defective or dangerous condition; or that the accountant knew about the defective or dangerous condition and yet, the accountant failed or refused to remedy the defective condition within a reasonable time.
The accountant had the burden of proving that it had a right to have the case summarily decided by the trial court. The accountant submitted in evidence the very deposition of the lady who testified that she did not know what caused her trip and fall. She also testified that she had never noticed the mat before she tripped and fell. It was only after she had already fallen did she notice that the welcome mat to the office was all rolled up.
The Court held that the lady failed to prove that the mat was a pre-existing dangerous or defective condition as she never noticed the mat rolled up before. She also did not prove that the accountant knew that the mat was rolled up and could present a tripping hazard. She also failed to prove that the accountant did not fix the rolled up mat even when he was informed that the mat was rolled up and that it posed a danger.
The Court ruled that the mat could have rolled up because the lady tripped and fell; that it was the lady’s fall that had caused the mat to be rolled up. The Court ruled that the rolled up mat was not a pre-existing condition. To allow the case to be brought before the jury would require the jury to speculate as to what caused the fall.
For this reason, the trial court was correct in deciding the case on summary judgment and it was also correct in dismissing the complaint. The appeal of the lady is dismissed.
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