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$40 Million Dollar Award Denied by Rhode Island Jury

Recent news reports from the Associated Press reports that a Rhode Island jury sided with the state of Rhode Island in a lawsuit brought by a paralyzed man. In 2008, the plaintiff sued the state of Rhode Island for $40 million dollars after he dove headfirst into a pond located at the World War II Memorial State Park in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and was paralyzed.

After deliberations, which took seven days, the jury concluded the state of Rhode Island and the Department of Environmental Management do not have to pay damages to Brett Roy or his family. The announcement was made by a spokesman for Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, Patrick C. Barry, an attorney for the plaintiff, claims that the plaintiff is likely to appeal the verdict.

Business owners and property managers have the responsibility to maintain their property and take the necessary precautions to ensure that people who enter their property are safe. Ensuring safety can include periodic inspections of the property and reasonable precautions.

According to the jury, this plaintiff did not prove that his injuries were from the negligence or the unsafe conditions of the property, but rather from his own actions. If he had proven that hazardous conditions caused or created an unsafe environment, he may have won his case.

Before determining liability for a claim, the jury reviewed basic factors to determine whether the property owner and the state had taken reasonable care. These factors included answering the following questions:

• Was the accident foreseeable?
• Did the property owner take reasonable measures to prevent the injury or warn their visitors of existing or potentials safety risks?
• Was the property used as it was intended?
• What were the circumstances under which the injured person entered the property?

Common Premise Liability Cases

There are a variety of different types of actions that may cause a personal injury while you are on someone else’s property. Premise liability claims have been won for the following:

• Slips and Falls
• Animal attacks
• Burn injuries
• Assaults
• Gas explosions

Awarding Compensation for a Premise Liability Claim

Premise liability cases are similar to other personal injury claims. If you are awarded damages for your injuries you may be entitled to receive lost wage compensation, payment for current and future medical bills, payment for pain and suffering and property damage. A statute of limitations has been instituted for filing a premise liability claim in every state.

Contributory Negligence versus. Comparative Negligence

Traditionally, courts used the concept of contributory negligence to determine if a plaintiff was entitled to benefits. The idea of contributory negligence asserts that an individual has the responsibility to act in a prudent and safe manner. If they are injured and their actions contributed to the injury, they would not be entitled to compensation.

Many states have adopted a more lenient approach to awarding compensation. Many states now use a comparative negligence approach which determines the percentage of fault of the plaintiff and awards benefits based on the fault level.

States differ in their approach of applying the comparative negligence laws. Some states allow the plaintiff’s fault to be as high as 99% but will reduce the damages to reflect their level of fault. Other states will not allow damages if the plaintiff’s fault is more than 50%, while others will disallow damages when the fault exceeds 50% (51% or higher).

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