Slip-and-fall cases involving a static condition often hinge on whether the condition was in plain view, and thus, what the plaintiff reasonably could be expected to see. In a trip-and-fall case involving a woman injured at a metro Atlanta jazz club, Brantley Rowlen’s closing argument walk-through helped clear the club against a $2 million claim.
Tina Spencer-Smith contended she suffered back and hip injuries when she tripped over steps in Cafe 290, a Sandy Springs, Georgia jazz club. Her attorneys argued the club was responsible for failing to make the steps more visible.
However, the defense argued the club had taken adequate safety precautions and Spencer-Smith should have seen the steps. During closings of the four-day trial, Rowlen, of Lewis Brisbois, effectively put jurors in Spencer-Smith’s shoes as by walking them through photographs that traced Spencer-Smith’s path before the accident.
As he recounts Spencer-Smith crossing the club to take her seat, Rowlen details how she would turn, referencing each photo. “She’s walking directly at these stairs,” he says, pointing to a photo of the steps, “directly at that door, which, if you believe she was there before the sun went down, was lit up like a Christmas tree.”
Even if it was dark, Rowlen argued, the steps still would have been visible. “She’d still have the opportunity to see some of the reflective strips and the lights and the overhead lights,” referencing closeup photos of those features.
“If it’s open and obvious that she should have appreciated through the exercise of reasonable care,” Rowlen said, “that doesn’t equal negligence.”
The Fulton County State Court jury needed about two hours to deliberate before clearing the club.
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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