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How the Passage of Time Can Affect Your Personal Injury Case


One problem in many personal injury cases is recreating the actual scene of the accident. In a premises liability case, for example, the plaintiff needs to prove that there was some dangerous or defective condition on the property that caused their injury. But several years may elapse between the date of the accident and a trial. In the meantime, the defendant may have taken steps to correct or cover up the hazard, making it even more difficult for the plaintiff to establish their claim.

Slip-and-Fall Case Hinges on Parking Lot Light Pole

Take this ongoing personal injury case from here in Knoxville. More than two-and-a-half years ago, in December 2014, the plaintiff was injured when she tripped and fell over a piece of concrete in a retail store’s parking lot. The plaintiff and her husband went to the store just before its 9 p.m. closing time. As she was parking the car, she said that she drove over a concrete barrier, although she could not see it due to the fact it was dark.

More to the point, the plaintiff testified the parking lot was “pitch black” when she crossed over the concrete barrier to go back to her car and fell. The plaintiff’s husband said “he could not see anything” in the parking lot either.

But the store claimed there was a light pole in the area. An expert witness retained by the store studied the parking lot in October 2016–nearly two years after the plaintiff’s accident–and testified light meter readings he took indicated the overall lighting was “in compliance with the recommended standards of the Standard Building Code, although the SBC does not mandate lighting and illumination standards for parking lots.”

The store, relying on the expert’s opinion, moved for summary judgment. The court denied this motion and held the plaintiff’s case could proceed to trial. As the magistrate presiding over the case explained, while the expert may have testified the that pole outputted adequate light when he tested it in 2016, the store did not present “any evidence that the lights on the light pole were actually on (or whether they were unlit, fully lit, or partially lit) on the day of the accident.” In other words, there was nothing to contradict the testimony of the plaintiff and her husband that the parking lot was “pitch black.” While a jury may ultimately not believe that testimony, the magistrate said the store was not entitled to summary judgment solely on the basis of its expert’s self-serving conclusions.

Have You Been Injured in an Accident?

Even a simple slip-and-fall case may involve a number of complex technical and legal issues. This is why it is important to work with an experienced Tennessee personal injury attorney whenever you have been hurt in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence. Call the offices of Fox, Farley, Willis & Burnette, Attorneys at Law, in Clinton or Knoxville toll free at 866-862-4855 to schedule a consultation with someone who can review your case and advise you on the appropriate steps to take.


Isaac v. TF-Universe, Inc., No. 3:16-CV-47-CCS (E.D. Tenn., June 30, 2017).

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