PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Legal Newsline) – The Rhode Island Supreme Court has affirmed a Superior Court's ruling to overturn a jury's finding of $78,101 in a personal injury lawsuit.
On April 4, Chief Justice Paul A. Suttell, writing for the state Supreme Court, explained that it would uphold a Superior Court decision in Gary Lemont v. Estate of Mary Della Ventura made by Associate Justice Susan E. McGuirl.
Lemont had filed a negligence suit against the defendant after he fell and sustained injuries while helping a friend move on the defendant’s property.
According to his statement, Lemont asserted that while trying to move a two-drawer nightstand into an apartment owned by the defendant in 2003, he leaned against a banister, which was unable to support both his weight and the nightstand, which caused it to give way.
He fell from a landing on the second floor to the first floor. Lemont alleged that at the time of the incident, the defendant knew or should have known of the unsafe and dangerous condition of the property and that she failed to warn him of the danger. That alleged failure led to circumstances that resulted in serious injuries that he attributed to her negligence.
These injuries included a swollen wrist that required several medical procedures and eventually surgery. He also testified that afterward he was unable to work for a period of time due to his injury and that this injury had a financial and physical impact on his life. However, in cross-examination, Lemont did acknowledge that he did not test the railing for safety before leaning against it.
According the statement, the jury found that Lemont had shown by a preponderance evidence that his injuries were caused by the defendant’s negligence. However, the jury also found that defendant had shown that plaintiff was guilty of negligence. The result was 35 percent negligence assigned to the plaintiff and 65 percent to the defendant. However, Ventura's attorney filed for a new trial on the grounds that the elements of the plaintiff’s negligence claim had not been established by the evidence adduced at trial.
The defendant's legal team continued its argument by filing a motion to review the jury's decision using the argument that a ruling should be entered in her favor on the grounds that the plaintiffs failed to introduce any evidence that the railing or stairway was dangerous or defective.
In addition, the defendant's representation argued that a new trial should be granted because the jury’s verdict was against the weight of the evidence and failed to do substantial justice and because of plaintiff’s purposeful violations of Rule 411 of the Rhode Island Rules of Evidence.
In its ruling to dismiss the jury's decision, the court cited Ramos v. Granajo as establishing precedent to determine whether Lemont had successfully demonstrated that Ventura had failed to take suitable precautions. In both cases the plaintiff was unable to demonstrate that an injury occurred because of the defendant's negligence and that the injury could not have been caused exclusively though the defendant's negligence.