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Appellate Court Reverses Defense Verdict in Premises Liability Case

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In a decision recently released by a California appellate court, a ruling that dismissed a case against the defendant has been reversed, and the plaintiff will have the opportunity to proceed with the case toward a jury trial. The plaintiff, who was injured when he fell from allegedly improperly constructed scaffolding at a construction site being operated by the defendant, will have an opportunity to hold the defendant responsible for the allegedly dangerous scaffolding, which had previously been constructed by an unlicensed contractor working under the defendant’s direction.

Plaintiff is Injured After Falling From Scaffolding Onto Pile of Bricks

According to the court's decision, the plaintiff in the case of Blackwell v. Vasilas was a contractor working to install gutters on a piece of residential investment property that the defendant owned. The defendant had previously hired a separate contractor to work on the roofing and windows, and that contractor constructed scaffolding around part of the building. The plaintiff did work on part of the building while using ladders, but when he got to the part that had scaffolding installed, he started working from the pre-installed scaffolding. When the plaintiff stepped from a ladder onto the scaffolding, the scaffolding collapsed, and he fell approximately 10 feet onto a pile of bricks and injured himself.

After he was injured, the plaintiff filed a personal injury and premises liability lawsuit against the defendant, alleging that he was responsible for the unsafe scaffolding that had been constructed on the site for the plaintiff to use when installing the gutters.

The Trial Court's Ruling and the Appellate Reversal

The defendant filed a motion with the trial court, requesting the case be resolved in their favor by arguing that the plaintiff did not allege sufficient facts to demonstrate the defendant’s legal liability for the accident. The lower court granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment, agreeing that under the relevant law, the defendant could not be held accountable for the allegedly negligent actions of the first contractor, who, as an independent contractor, could not be the basis of responsibility for the property owner without the presentation of other evidence that the plaintiff had not provided.

The plaintiff appealed the decision to the appellate court, and the Court found that the defendant may actually be liable for the injuries because the first contractor, although independently employed from the defendant, was not a licensed contractor, making the defendant responsible for his work (and any injuries incurred therefrom) under the state law. With this finding, the appellate court sent the case back down to the lower court to determine if the first contractor, and thus the defendant himself, was inexcusably negligent in the construction and use of the scaffolding, and if the plaintiff should be compensated by the defendant for the damages that he incurred.

Illinois Summary Judgment Standard

Under the standard of law for an Illinois personal injury case to be decided by the court without a trial, either party must show that there is no triable issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. This standard allows a court to dispose of a case, either for the defendant or for the plaintiff, in a scenario in which based on the admissible facts presented to the court, no reasonable jury could disagree on who is entitled to a judgment. Although summary judgment is generally considered a final judgment, this recently released case demonstrates that sometimes a trial court makes an incorrect decision that is later reversed on appeal. It's important for Illinois accident plaintiffs to retain a skilled personal injury attorney from the start to prevent the need for a potentially costly appeal.

Have You Been Hurt?

If you or a family member has been injured or killed in an accident caused by someone else's negligence, the Chicago personal injury and negligence attorneys at the Cavanagh Law Group can help you seek the damages that you deserve. Consulting a competent attorney greatly increases an accident victim chance of recovery, and having a qualified attorney from the beginning can increase the chance of a quick and fair settlement. The Illinois accident attorneys at the Cavanagh Law Group know how to get our clients the compensation they deserve. At Cavanagh Law Group, we represent clients in most personal injury and wrongful death cases, including slip and fall accidents.

When Winning Is the Only Option, Contact CLG

To speak to a professional and find out if you have grounds to file an injury lawsuit, call our firm at (844) 515-2223 or fill out the form below.

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