Monday, May 23, 2011

Wet Tennis Courts Result in Plaintiff's Verdict

In 2006 the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia presided over a slip and fall case in which a student sued his university for a fall he sustained due to pools of water on a tennis court.

Abrams, the plaintiff, was a student at Temple University in 2003. As part of a physical education requirement he enrolled in a beginning tennis class for credit. During one of the classes he slipped and fell on the defendant's tennis court. Abrams argued that the tennis court was dangerously slippery. Temple denied that the tennis court was dangerous and argued that it was Abram’s own negligence that caused the fall.

Specifically, Abrams was practicing service and returns on an outdoor tennis court. At the time, the tennis court contained small puddles from a recent rain. Abrams claimed that during his practice he stepped in one of the puddles and it caused him to slip and fall. As part of his case, Abrams called a recreational safety expert who indicated that the surface of the tennis court was problematic and created a safety hazard by allowing water to pool.

Abrams sustained a wrist fracture in the fall. He had to undergo multiple surgeries to correct his injury. His orthopedic surgeon testified that each time Abrams now moves his wrist, the plate in his hand rubs the tendons, causing pain. Abrams doctor also testified that Abrams would likely require additional surgery in the future.

No medical expenses nor loss of income was presented to the jury. The plaintiff complained of an increased discomfort when he played the piano as a hobby.

Temple argued that the Abrams was aware of the wet conditions on the tennis court and should have postponed his practice. The defendant further stressed that the tennis court had been resurfaced in 1999 with a gritty surface made especially for outside courts. Evidence offered by the defense also showed that semi-annual safety reports were produced and that an annual inspection verified the safety of the tennis courts. The defendant's recreational safety expert testified that the surface of the tennis court was appropriate and was acceptable for the collegiate tennis matches it often held.
The defense also pointed out that Abram’s physician noted that the wrist fracture was healing satisfactorily.

The jury found the defendant 56% negligent and the plaintiff 44% comparatively negligent. The plaintiff was awarded $ 150,000 in damages, reduced to a net award of $ 84,000. Delay damaged increased the award to $ 86,500.

That seems like a pretty fair outcome to me. Clearly, Abrams was somewhat responsible for what happened. How could he not see that there were puddles all around the court? But the University was also responsible for what happened. They accepted Abrams money for the class they offered. As part of that class, that was probably held at specific times, Abrams had to use the univeristy’s tennis courts. Thus, Temple had a duty to make sure those tennis courts were in a safe and usable condition for their paying students. Clearly, they did not and were rightly held partly responsible for what happened to Abrams. Businesses, like Temple that accepts money from their students, have a heightened duty to protect their business invitees (customers/patrons/students) from dangers on their property. The jury got this right in my opinion. Share this post :
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