When someone is injured in an accident, the question often arises, who is at fault? Certain factors must be met to find fault in an injury case. The following case outlines the elements which must be proven to file a personal injury lawsuit against a public park in East Baton Rouge.
While climbing spectator bleachers at a park, two-year-old Derrick Albert Jr. (DJ) fell and landed on a concrete surface. DJ’s parents, Brittany Hasbert and Derrick Albert, Sr., brought a claim against the Baton Rouge Recreation and Park Commission (BREC) for the Parish of East Baton Rouge, pursuing damages for the injuries DJ sustained from his fall.
After receiving the lawsuit, BREC filed a motion for summary judgment to dismiss their claims. BREC argued DJ would be unable to prove the bleachers were defective and the bleachers were the cause of his injuries. BREC also argued that it didn’t have actual or constructive notice of a defect in the bleachers.
The Louisiana Nineteenth Judicial District Court granted BREC’s motion for summary judgment. DJ then appealed to the Louisiana Court of Appeal First Circuit.
Summary judgment applies only when there is no genuine issue of material fact after the evidence has been reviewed. La. C.C. P. art. 966(B)(2). A genuine issue consists of a triable issue. See Smith v. Our Lady of the Lake Hosp. Additionally, a material fact exists when they potentially insure or preclude recovery. See King v. Illinois Nat. Ins. Co.
In this case, the Court of Appeal investigated the limitation of liability for public bodies. La. R.S. 9:2800. This law states that to prove BREC was liable for DJ’s injuries, the parents must be able to establish five factors:
- That BREC had custody or ownership of the defective bleachers,
- The defect in the bleachers caused an unreasonable risk of harm,
- BREC had actual or constructive notice of the defect,
- BREC failed to correct the defect in a reasonable time, and
- Causation existed.
In support of its motion for summary judgment, BREC presented the affidavit of a senior risk manager for the entity. This affidavit stated there were no reported complaints or other incidents to demonstrate the alleged bleacher defects before DJ’s fall. The affidavit also noted that BREC did monthly inspections on the bleachers, indicating they were defects-free. Further, the parents’ lawsuit was the first and only complaint involving the bleachers. BREC also introduced testimony from the company’s representative stating the bleachers were routinely inspected for hazards. Finally, BREC introduced testimony from witnesses, including DJ’s grandmother, who said they saw the child walking up the bleachers but did not see how he fell.
On the other hand, the parents argued there was a wide gap between the top bleacher seat and the guardrail. This, as well as unstable wooden boards, equates to defects that caused DJ’s fall. Additionally, the parents introduced an affidavit from a certified playground safety expert. This affidavit stated the bleachers were not in compliance with the Consumer Products Safety Commission Bleacher Guidelines. In response, BREC argued the guidelines were not mandatory, and any gaps in the bleachers were open and obvious to any users.
The Court of Appeal found that BREC demonstrated an absence of factual support for essential elements of the parents’ claims. In addition, the Court of Appeals held that BREC had no actual or constructive notice of any defect in the bleachers, as there had been no prior complaints or incidents relating to the parents’ arguments. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal affirmed the District Court’s granting of summary judgment in favor of BREC.
This case demonstrates the need for understanding the elements that go into a personal injury lawsuit. The fact that someone, including a child, is injured in a public park does not necessarily mean the entity was at fault. An experienced attorney may be needed to explain the elements and determine a lawsuit’s viability.
Additional Sources: BRITTANY HASBERT INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF If HER MINOR SON, DERRICK ALBERT, JR., AND DERRICK ALBERT, SR. VERSUS THE RECREATION AND PARK COMMISSION FOR THE PARISH OF EAST BATON ROUGE
Written by Berniard Law Firm Blog Writer: Samantha Calhoun
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