New Case Law Permitting More Lawsuits To Go To A Jury

  A recent decision by the California Third Appellate District Court of Appeals might have an impact on Michigan personal injury lawsuits.  Insurance companies, large corporations, and other defendants oftentimes try to take away an accident victim's day in court.  Defendants will file motions for summary disposition, motions for summary judgment, or even a motion to dismiss in order to have the Judge rule on the case instead of letting a jury decide.

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The Jimenez et. al. v. 24 Hour Fitness USA, Inc.  case [click for full Opinion] provides more legal support for the notion that cases involving detailed facts should be able to be able to reach a jury.  The Jimenez case involved a woman who was using a treadmill at a local gym when she fell backwards off the machine.  She hit her head on the exposed steel of another exercise machine placed just under four feet behind the treadmill.  The victim's attorney argued to the trial court and the appellate court that there should have been at least a six foot safety zone behind a treadmill and that the gym owed the victim a duty to have a safe gym and to leave at least six feet of open space behind the treadmill to prevent this exact type of injury from occurring. 

The gym defended itself claiming that the injury was not their responsibility because the woman signed a release when she signed up for the gym even though the release was in English and the woman only spoke Spanish.

California's Third Appellate District Court of Appeals had this to say:

In our view, based on the evidence plaintiffs presented, a jury could reasonably
find that: (1) it is standard practice in the industry to provide a minimum six-foot safety
zone behind treadmills, based on the owner’s manual, assembly guide, and Waldon’s
declaration as an expert; (2) 24 Hour did not provide this minimum six-foot safety zone,
as declared by Neuman; and (3) the failure to provide the minimum safety zone was an
extreme departure from the ordinary standard of conduct, as implied in Waldon’s
declaration. Accordingly, plaintiffs created a triable issue of fact as to whether the failure
to provide the minimum six-foot safety zone constituted an extreme departure from the
ordinary standard of conduct. 

The Appellate Court continued:

A jury may very well conclude that Etelvina was not injured in the manner alleged, that there was no industry standard on treadmill safety clearances, and that 24 Hour’s conduct did not rise to the level of gross negligence, but we are unwilling to reach these conclusions as a matter of law based on the record before us. 

Essentially, the Court is explaining that lawsuits which have a number of complicated facts should go to a jury to be heard instead of the trial court judge deciding the case on his or her own.  This legal precedent may trickle into the Michigan courts soon as Defendant's in personal injury lawsuits continue to file motions to dismiss the cases of accident victims.

If you have been injured in a personal injury accident, call The Michigan Law Firm, PLLC.  Our injury lawyers can explain your rights under Michigan law and discuss what benefits you may be entitled to depending on the particular nature of your accident, including, in many cases, pain and suffering compensation. Call us today for a free consultation at 844.4MI.FIRM.