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Fox Farley Willis & Burnette Attorneys At Law
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How Do I Prove a Slip-and-Fall Injury?


One of the most common types of personal injury claims is the “slip-and-fall” accident. These are actually known as premises liability claims. The basic idea is that a property owner can be held liable under Tennessee law if they fail to repair a known dangerous condition on the premises. For example, if the manager of a store knows there is a puddle of water in one of the aisles and fails to mop it up, the store may be liable if a customer subsequently slips and falls on the puddle and sustains injuries as a result.

No Evidence Linking Defective Sidewalk to Woman’s Injuries

Causation is key to a slip-and-fall claim. It is not enough to prove there was a known hazard that the property owner failed to correct. A plaintiff must also provide the court with sufficient evidence connecting the dangerous condition to their actual injury.

A recent Tennessee Court of Appeals decision illustrates this principle in practice. Here, the plaintiff was walking down a sidewalk in Newbern, Tennessee, when she fell, injuring her head and knee. A couple days later, she sought medical care. Approximately one year later, she required knee surgery.

The sidewalk itself was owned by the City of Newbern. The plaintiff filed a premises liability claim against the city. The lawsuit alleged there was a “dangerous and defective condition” in the sidewalk that caused the plaintiff’s fall. The plaintiff said she and her husband had complained to the city multiple times prior to the accident about the sidewalk, so the city was clearly aware of the problem yet failed to act.

The case was tried before a judge without a jury. While the judge agreed with the plaintiff that the sidewalk was indeed in a “defective condition,” and the city was responsible for the sidewalk, that was not enough to establish liability. More to the point, the judge said the plaintiff “failed to causally connect her injury to the defective condition of the sidewalk.” The judge therefore entered judgment for the city.

The Court of Appeals upheld the trial judge’s ruling. The appeals court cited the plaintiff’s own trial testimony, where she answered “no” when asked if she knew “what caused you to fall specifically.” Similarly, none of the other witnesses who testified could actually say why the plaintiff fell.

Now, you might think it is common sense that the plaintiff fell because of the sidewalk’s condition. But that is not how the law works. The Court of Appeals noted it will not “presume negligence simply because an accident occurred.” In any personal injury claim, the plaintiff has a legal responsibility to prove causation. Since the plaintiff could not do that here, the trial judge was right to dismiss her claim.

A Tennessee Personal Injury Attorney Can Help

Evidence matters, even in a seemingly simple slip-and-fall case. Judges will not just take your word for it that the defendant was negligent. This is why you need to work with an experienced Tennessee personal injury lawyer if you plan to bring any kind of premises liability case. Contact the offices of Fox, Farley, Willis & Burnette, Attorneys at Law, in Clinton or Knoxville if you would like to schedule a consultation today.


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