Not all cases are the same, some can involve significant liability issues. This is especially true when it comes to premises liability claims. I had one such premises liability trial in Greensboro. In that case, a man and his son were going to an auto parts store. When they got there, they saw some scrap metal behind the store in a vacant lot. They actually sell scrap metal. So, they went to go look at it as they were going to consider making an offer to buy it. When the father went over to it, the metal looked like a square boxed metal frame with a hinged lid. about five feet square. He put one foot on the box and pushed down. The box then sprung open and flung him in the air about 20 feet. He fell back onto the metal and shattered his leg and suffered a mild brain injury.
He had multiple surgeries on his leg including rods and pins. He had to have a steel plate put into his head. He had over $100,000 in medical bills and no health insurance. He filed a claim against the insurance company that insured the property. The insurance company argued that this injury was his fault. The insurance company offered $0 and said that they would never pay. So, we filed a lawsuit and then tried the personal injury case in Greensboro.
It was a hard fought trial. The defense attorney was very good, and there was an eyewitness and an expert witness against us. The eyewitness said that he saw the guy jumping up and down on the metal “like a monkey”. On cross examination, he stated that he was driving down the road when he saw this. He said that he kept watching and actually turned right onto a side road without ever taking his eyes off of him. Of course, this just isn’t true and the jury knew it. People just can’t drive that far and then take a right without ever looking. However, the jury still wasn’t sure if the man had been on top of the metal.
The defense attorney also hired an engineered that “proved” the man was jumping up and down on the metal. The engineer was a smart witness from Raleigh and explained what happened using very complex math. I argued that this simply couldn’t have happened this way. The metal was hinged at one end only. So, it opened like a clam shell, or catapult. I got some Lincoln Logs, and asked the defense expert to get off of the stand and demonstrate this principle. I wanted to know how a catapult could throw a person straight up in the air and come right back down in the same spot. I told him that catapults throw things forward, otherwise that would be the dumbest medieval weapon of all time. He refused to demonstrate with the Lincoln Logs. In closing, I demonstrated instead and the log flew forward all the way to the clerk and judge. I hit the log a bit too hard in my eagerness to show the jury, the judge wasn’t pleased. This judge is a great judge who is still on the bench. If you are reading this- sorry judge. However, we won the case.
I told the jury that if the man was actually jumping on top of the metal, he should lose. Find against him if you believe that because it would be his fault. Additionally, I told them this metal was a spring trap. It was an upside down dock leveler capable of lifting thousands of pounds. What person leaves a thing like this “cocked” in the back of their building? Kids play back behind that building, and a kid wouldn’t have survived this injury. The point of telling you about this trial was to show two main things. First, witnesses simply can’t always be trusted. In this case, I investigated the history of this “eyewitness” and found out that he had once ran a nightclub with the property owner defendant. The engineer from Raleigh obviously made up his math, because catapults just don’t work like that. While I have seen plenty of defense experts exaggerate, I always shocked to see one just make something up out of thin air. Please don’t ever underestimate the ability of large insurance companies to find expert witnesses to testify against you. They will testify to anything.
Second, even though contributory negligence is always alleged in personal injury premises liability cases, the defense attorney must prove it. In jury trials, it is their burden of proof. They can’t just come to court and allege it. Finally, Greensboro jurors are very fair and they have a tendency to see through these tricks. Even though insurance isn’t admissible in jury trials, they just knew that some other entity had been pulling some strings. The insurance company even hired another expert from Virginia to testify that he really didn’t have a brain injury. Huh? They had to put a metal plate in his head to hold his brain in.
Ultimately, premises liability cases in Greensboro can be won, but the personal injury attorney handling the case must work hard and fully investigate the case. Don’t just sit back either, do some digging on your own. The more serious injuries that you have the more you should get involved. Good luck!