Making the Case For Clear & Concrete Causation
Skylar Stewart, Katie Gannon, Derek Bush
Central to any strong legal case is the capacity to effectively—and tangibly—connect the dots. And in a recent premises liability case, the Rissman team demonstrated how inference and conjecture inevitably come up short in favor of a strong, well-founded, detail-bound approach.
In this case, Rissman attorney Skylar Stewart obtained summary judgment in a matter that arose from an incident at the client’s warehouse in Manatee County, Florida.
The plaintiff was working as a longshoreman employed by a third-party company contracted by Rissman’s client. During his shift, he was operating a forklift while unloading a pallet of product from a shipping container when another employee of the third-party contractor company prematurely moved the container. As a result, the plaintiff’s forklift fell out of the back of the container, and in bracing for the fall, the plaintiff sustained a severe hand injury.
The plaintiff was airlifted from the scene and transported to the hospital for care, but ultimately his initial surgery failed and he had an extensive array of additional surgeries and subsequent issues. He received workers’ compensation from his employer, but sued the client under theories of nondelegable duty and premises liability.
The client’s claim was predicated on a locking mechanism that was previously in place to notify the longshoremen when a container was empty and ready to be moved. At some point prior to the plaintiff’s injury, the hydraulic lock was removed but the remaining parts of the system stayed in place. Though the plaintiff’s counsel alleged the defendant was negligent, through discovery it became apparent that the defendant had no role in removing the locking system.
The Rissman team argued that the defendant had no duty to the longshoremen as it did not own the premises, didn’t breach any duty because it didn’t remove the locks, and that there was no evidence of causation.
The judge found there was sufficient evidence as to duty and breach, but insufficient evidence to prove causation. This argument required stacking inferences and was devoid of concrete evidence.
The defense served a proposal for settlement prior to the motion, which was granted. Thank you to Rissman attorney Katie Gannon for preparing an exceptional motion for summary judgment in this case.