Ramey Law, P.C. use a summary judgment motion to obtain a nominal settlement in a premises liability-personal injury case
December 18, 2011
The firm handled the defense of a trip and fall personal injury case in 2011. Our client was the property owner, and the case involved a claim for premises liability for a tenant who fell on a walkway in the apartment complex. Our initial demand on this case from plaintiff was for $65,000. Upon investigation, we found that the displaced concrete upon which plaintiff tripped was less than 3/4 of an inch. After several unsuccessful attempts to resolve the claim short of preparing a dispositive motion, we moved forward with a summary judgment motion. Our motion demonstrated that the concrete crack that was alleged to have caused plaintiff to trip fell squarely within the “trivial defect” doctrine. California law dictates that minor or insignificant conditions cannot form a basis of premises liability. There are a number of factors that the court considers, including size of the depression, time of the accident, weather conditions, plaintiff’s familiarity with the area, whether the defect was hidden and whether there had been similar accidents in the past. Each of these factors were in our client’s favor and led to a particularly persuasive motion.
Upon receipt of our motion, plaintiff’s counsel immediately resumed settlement negotiations by cutting his demand in half. We refused this demand, and counsel for the plaintiff reduced his demand several times before finally accepting our client’s one and only settlement offer of $5,000 to resolve the claim.