Tennessee Court Finds Homeowner Not Responsible for Worker’s Fall

Most homeowners have, at any given time, hired a repairman or handyman to take care of some sort of project at their home. Whether fixing an appliance, building a new staircase, or correcting faulty electrical wiring, the need for help can often seem endless.  For most homeowners, the though of what would happen if a repairman injured himself while at their home never crosses their mind. A recent case before the Tennessee Court of Appeals, however, addresses this exact issue after an injury during a paint job.

In this negligence case, M.E. was hired by his boss, M.T. to perform a side job at her home for her after hours. She needed various parts of the exterior of her home repainted and M.E. agreed to do so. On the first day he arrives, M.T. provided M.E. with paint, tools, and ladders to access the house. Shortly thereafter, M.T. left and did not return to the home for the next few days.

While working on the home, M.E. claimed to have experienced problems with the ladders he was provided and believed them to be faulty. Nonetheless, he wanted to finish the job so he continued to use them. On the third day, after climbing up the ladder to paint the eaves, the ladder fell out from underneath him and he tumbled to the ground, injuring his wrist.  M.E. then sued M.T. for failing to provide him with safe equipment and protect him while on her property.

During discovery M.E. testified about how he had had difficulty with the ladders and stated that at one point M.T. acknowledged that the ladders were old but thought they could get the job done.  M.E. also testified that he did not know exactly why the ladder fell and did not observe the ladder after it was on the ground.  M.T. later testified that she did not recall any conversation about the condition of the ladders, and that she was not aware of any defects to the ladders.  She also said that M.E. had told her after the accident that he had been distracted by a neighbor child who was yelling at him before he fell.

After the close of discovery, M.T. moved for summary judgment, arguing that M.E. had not provided any evidence to suggest that the ladders were in dangerous condition or that that dangerous condition caused his fall. He also had not provided any evidence to show that M.T. knew of a dangerous condition if it existed.  The lower court agreed and granted the motion for summary judgment, finding that there was no evidence of knowledge or causation.

M.E. appealed. In reviewing the evidence, the appellate court emphasized the requirement of causation. Although M.E. had established that he was on a ladder at the time the accident occurred and he had fallen, he had not shown what precisely caused his fall and whether it was the result of a problem with the ladders or something else, like becoming distracted and losing his balance. Moreover, the appeals court also affirmed the lower court’s finding that even if the ladders had been defective, M.E. also had not provided any evidence to suggest M.T. knew of this fact. The court held that simply admitting the ladders were old was not enough to impart knowledge of a dangerous condition to M.T. Without any evidence to meet these basic elements of a negligence claim, the court held that M.E’s claim could not be upheld and the lower court had properly granted summary judgment.

Simply because a plaintiff believes something does not make it so. Plaintiffs must be prepared to provide proof to support all of their allegations and the facts of their claim. Premises liability attorney Eric Beasley is an experienced litigator who will work with you to uncover all of the facts necessary to your claim, and make sure those facts are documented for the court. If you have recently been injured and are uncertain about your rights, contact the Law Office of Eric Beasley today at 615-859-2223.

Related Blog Posts:

Tennessee Court Holds That Plaintiff Can Add Comparative Fault Defendants To Case, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, February 9, 2018.

Tennessee Court Holds No Duty to Keep Parking Spots Safe, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, December 15, 2017.

Tennessee Court Rejects Claim that Doorframe Was Dangerous Condition, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, November 9, 2017.