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Court of Appeals overturns jury verdict based on trip over floor grate

Sandra Ellis sued the homeowner after she tripped while entering his garage at 10 pm and fell suffering serious injuries.  The jury returned a verdict holding the homeowner responsible for 51 percent of her injuries, apparently believing Ellis's claim that because the garage was dark, she did not see the floor grate just inside the garage door.  The Court of Appeals overturned her verdict and dismissed her claim, holding that her testimony was not adequate to prove that the grate was not "open and obvious" as claimed by the homeowner's insurer and the homeowner's witnesses.

The appellate panel paid lip service to its obligation to "view the evidence in the light most favorable to the [prevailing party]" before rejecting Ms. Ellis's claim that the grate was not readily observable on "casual inspection" because the only light in the garage was located at the far end of the garage.  Apparently, the appellate panel found the testimony of the homeowner and his daughter claiming adequate light to be more credible, although it did not acknowledge such a breach of appellate standards.  In essence, the appellate judges elevated themselves to a position of "superior fact-finder" in order to overturn the jury's verdict compensating Ms. Ellis for half of her damages.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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