Mississippi law and Mississippi jurors give slip and fall victims a fair shake. Here are some recent slip and fall cases is Mississippi.
Mississippi Slip and Fall Verdicts and Settlements
- 2019, Mississippi: $1,387,762 Verdict. A man visited a body shop to check up on his daughter’s vehicle’s repair status. As he walked into the back of the shop, he encountered a dog who bit him in the leg. He shook off the dog and ran off. The man then slipped on an oil puddle. He suffered a tibia fracture that required a surgical repair. The man claimed that he would need to undergo future knee replacement surgery. He also claimed that his injuries impaired his ability to work as an HVAC repairman. The man filed dog bite and slip and fall claims against the body shop. The body shop denied liability, arguing that there was no evidence that the dog was vicious in the past and that the shop management did not know of an oil spill. They also argued that the man was contributorily negligent. The Hinds County found the body shop 85 percent negligent and the man 15 percent negligent. They awarded a $1,387,762 verdict. The man’s net award was $1,179,597.
- 2018, Mississippi: $474,444 Verdict. A casino hotel guest slipped and fell as she exited a hot tub. She landed on her hip and back. The woman suffered permanent injuries that left her with chronic pain. She and her husband sued the casino hotel’s owners for creating hazardous conditions. Her husband also made a loss of consortium claim. The federal jury ruled in favor of the couple but found the woman 60 percent at fault. They awarded a $474,444 verdict. The man received $75,000 in his loss of consortium claim, which was included in the verdict.
- 2017, Mississippi: $20,000 Verdict. A woman slipped and fell on a puddle of water on the floor of a Kroger. She suffered unspecified personal injuries. The woman filed a lawsuit in federal court, alleging that Kroger failed to maintain safe conditions. A federal jury awarded the woman a $20,000 verdict.
- 2017, Mississippi: $110,000 Verdict. A woman slipped and fell down her apartment complex’s stairs. She claimed the stairs’ icy conditions could not be noticed, even with due caution. The woman suffered unspecified injuries. She filed suit in federal court, arguing that the apartment complex’s owner failed to maintain safe premises. The federal jury found the apartment complex’s owners 70 percent at fault and the woman 30 percent at fault. They awarded a $110,000 verdict. The woman’s net award totaled $77,000.
- 2016, Mississippi: $15,000 Verdict. A woman slipped and fell on an uneven tile that was covered by a mat in a Buffalo Wild Wings. She fell on her head, back, and buttocks. The woman suffered an injury to her C3-4 disc, which required surgery. She sued Buffalo Wild Wings for negligently creating a hazardous condition. Buffalo Wild Wings argued that the uneven tile did not pose a hazard and that the woman’s medical history included a pre-existing C3-4 herniation. The Lamar County jury ruled in favor of the woman and awarded $15,000.
- 2014, Mississippi: $500,000 Verdict. A woman slipped and fell on a plastic placemat that fell onto the floor in an aisle at a local Target. She suffered unspecified injuries as a result. The woman and her husband sued Target and two of its employees. They alleged that Target’s improper stocking of merchandise created an injury risk for customers. The Hinds County jury found Target 80 percent negligent and the woman 20 percent negligent. They awarded the couple a $500,000 verdict.
Mississippi Slip and Fall Law
Just because you fell in a Missouri store does not mean you have a claim. Under Mississippi lawm the store owner is not an insurer of the business invitee’s injuries. Proof of a fall or even that a fall occurred and the floor had litter and debris is not enough to support a premises liability claim in slip and fall cases. Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Tisdale, 185 So.2d 916, 917 (Miss. 1966).
But Missouri law does impose a duty on business to its customers to exercise ordinary care and to keep the premises reasonably safe while warning invitees of dangerous conditions known to the store owner. Munford Inc. v. Fleming, 597 So.2d 1282, 1284 (Miss. 1992).
In Munford, the Mississippi high court set forth the standard a plaintiff must meet to recover in a slip and trip case”
[The injury victim] must show the proprietor had actual knowledge of a dangerous condition, or the dangerous condition existed for a sufficient amount of time to establish constructive knowledge, in that the proprietor should have known of the condition, or the dangerous condition was created through a negligent act of a store’s proprietor or his employees.
This is a reasonable standard that is shared by most states.
Example Case of Judges Denying a Victim a Jury Verdict
While the law and jurors may be fair to Mississipians, judges are not always as fair. One case, Pratt v.Gulfport-Biloxi Regional Airport, is a good example. In this case, the Mississippi Supreme Court, again seeing it the defendant’s way, reversed an intermediate appellate court’s reversal of summary judgment in a slip and fall case at Gulfport-Biloxi Regional Airport. So the victim never gets to get his case to the jury.
The plaintiff, an Air Force doctor (a plaintiffs’ lawyer’s dream), sued the airport after he slipped and tripped down a wet set of aluminum steps. It was a real fall: he fell down two stories of steps.
The airport sought summary judgment under the dreadful Mississippi Tort Claims Act. The argument was twofold. First, they alleged that the airport had immunity under the MTCA because the dangerous condition plaintiff alleged was open and obvious to one exercising due care. The second – and more annoying – is that the airport is immune from suit because the alleged acts or omissions of the airport were discretionary functions.
Discretionary Function Exception
One of the biggest exceptions to governmental liability under the local government tort claims act is the discretionary function exception. The Federal Tort Claims Act has the same exception. The doctrine is controversial and has lead to just a ton of lawsuits. The discretionary function exception protects the government from liability for any claim based upon the exercise or performance, or the failure to exercise or perform a discretionary function or duty on the part of a government employee. The idea was to prevent judicial second-guessing of legislative and administrative decisions for which there was a good reason – grounded in social, economic, and political policy – regardless of whether a personal injury claim might be implicated.
The parties agreed that the omission that formed the basis of plaintiff’s case – the failure to lay anti-slip tape on the temporary stairs – was not a ministerial function because there is obviously no regulation on point to putting on anti-slip tape. Plaintiff did not argue that the problem was failing to order anti-slip tape on the stairs, instead, the doctor claimed that the airport was liable because it did not place the anti-slip tape on a sufficient portion of the stairs.
In other words, Dr. Pratt’s lawsuit was not the question of whether to apply the tape, instead, it was based on the failure to apply the tape they decided to apply. So, seemingly, this would take the case out of the discretionary function ballpark.
The Mississippi high court disagreed, finding that the “day-to-day operational activities at issue in this case involved choice and judgment, because there are no laws or regulations dictating how those activities are to be performed.” So, without a statute to guide the employee, the court did not want to second guess his judgment, even though it was, you know, awful.
Under this interpretation, I think the exception engulfs the rule.
Other Discretionary Rule Cases
- United States v. S.A. Empresa de Viacao Aerea Rio Grandense, 467 U.S. 797, 813-14 (1984) (Justice Burger provides the legislative history of discretionary function exception)
- John W. Bagby & Gary L. Gittings, The Elusive Discretionary Function Exception from Government Tort Liability: The Narrowing Scope of Federal Liability, 30 Am. Bus. L.J. 223, 254-58 (1992) (common sense – at least to me – ideas to limit this draconian rule)
- Sterling v. Bloom, 111 Idaho 211, 723 P.2d 755 (1986) (planning/operational dichotomy distinction that might have helped the plaintiff is this case)