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Man Who Fell Through Chair Loses Case Due to Summary Judgment

Injuries can happen anywhere but do not always lead to successful legal suits. Larry Modicue was directed by Rose Kennedy, an insurance agent for State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. in West Monroe, Louisiana, to have a seat in her office, which resulted in the chair collapsing. Modicue is a 404-pound man who has sat in this same chair with no prior injuries or incidents but suffered a shoulder injury in the fall, requiring medical assistance.

Modicue sought relief for his injuries and brought suit against Kennedy and State Farm. Kennedy and State Farm’s, in turn, filed a motion for summary judgment. Summary judgment is a maneuver used by one party to have the court make a decision on part or the whole dispute without going to trial. For a motion for summary judgment to be granted there must be no disputes on material fact, showing that one party is entitled to judgment. The summary judgment procedure is designed to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and is favored by the courts and construed to accomplish these ends. In this case, Kennedy and State Farm’s motion for summary judgment was granted due to the fact that the court found no genuine issue of material fact.

Modicue appealed this decision arguing that the court erred in granting summary judgment. His reasoning was that 1) a Louisiana business owner has a duty to provide seating which is adequate for the general public, and 2) the facts of the case permit the application of res ipsa loquitor.

The court disagreed with Modicue. According to the Louisiana C.C. art. 2317.1, an owner is only responsible for damage of the object is if 1) he knew about a ruin, vice, or defect which caused the damage, or 2) he should have known of the ruin, vice, or defect, 3) the damage could have been prevented if he exercised reasonable care, and 4) that he failed to exercise reasonable care.

Modicue failed to show that there was prior knowledge on the part of Kennedy and State Farm of the chair being defected. There was also no reasonable belief that the chair was defected and could not support Modicue because he had sat in the same chair before without any injury or incident. The chair also did not contain any warning about the capacity at which it could hold.

Res ipsa loquitor, a rule of circumstantial evidence that applies when the facts suggest that the negligence of the defendant is the most plausible explanation of the injury, did not apply either. According to Harper v. Advantage Gaming, it is applicable when 1) the circumstances of the accident are so unusual that, in the absence of other evidence, there is an inference of negligence by defendant; 2) defendant had exclusive control over the thing causing injury; and, 3) the only reasonable conclusion is that defendant’s breach of duty caused the accident.

The original ruling in favor of Rose Kennedy and State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. was upheld due to Modicue’s failure to produce sufficient evidence showing the negligence of Kennedy and State Farm.

If you have been injured contact the Berniard Law Firm. Call the Berniard Law Firm Toll-Free at 1-866-574-8005, and an attorney specializing in personal injury will be more than happy to help you get the outcome you deserve.