In an appellate decision rendered just recently, the Second District Court of Appeals allowed a lawsuit against a restaurant to move forward to trial, even though the injured party could not provide any evidence as to how or why a bar stool in which he was seated collapsed. According to the Court's decision, the customer was injured when he sat down on a counter stool, leaned against the back, and the chair fell off the base, causing him to fall to the ground. No other physical condition of the premises contributed to the fall.
Of the three screws attached to the seat, the subject of the case, two broke approximately one-half inch from the head, and one broke about one-fourth inch below the head. The plaintiff had no knowledge or information as to what caused the screws to break. In fact, when the customer turned the stool in order to sit down, he did not notice anything wrong with the stool and felt no looseness. The plaintiff did not know whether the screws failed before he placed his body on the seat, and he observed nothing about the screws which indicated long-term failure. In spite of the defendant's evidence of regular inspections and the absence of any prior, similar accident, the Appellate Court ruled the case should be allowed to proceed to trial under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. That doctrine essentially requires that the injured party prove: (1) the accident would not normally occur absent someone's negligence, (2) that the defendant had exclusive control over the injury causing instrument (in this case the stool) and (3) the accident was not the result of the plaintiff's voluntary action or contribution.
Often, when an accident like the one above occurs it will be difficult if not impossible for the plaintiff to establish exactly what caused the accident to happen. Instead the law allows, as this case demonstrates, the plaintiff to proceed under the theory that someone else's negligence had to have caused the accident, because the accident would not have happened otherwise. To proceed in this fashion with a lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove the defendant being sued had exclusive control over the instrument (chair) causing the fall. A jury may then (in spite of the defendant's claim of regular inspections and even absent a prior accident) be called upon to decide the case.
Compensation for victims of business premises accidents, like the one above, should be an important concern for all Californians. When a business patron is injured through no fault of his own because of a defect within a business (such as the stool described above), they should be held accountable. An Orange County trial lawyer with experience at handling such cases can make a fair assessment of these claims. Mr. Ralph has 20 years years of experience handling personal injury cases, including just this type. He can be reached at 714-919-4415 for a FREE CONSULTATION.
Have you or a loved one been injured in an accident involving the failure of chair or stool within a business?
- Nothing in this post is intended to suggest the Law Offices of Paul W. Ralph currently represents anyone involved in the news story above. This posting should not be construed as legal advice or an opinion on the merit of any particular matter. A consultation is the best way to obtain an assessment of your potential case.