Articles Posted in Premises Liability

Millions of Americans attend sporting events each year, and spectator injuries are commonplace. While injuries can happen at any professional sporting event, most injuries occur at hockey and baseball games, followed by golfing events and Nascar races. New Hampshire sporting event injury lawsuits tend to involve slip-and-fall claims or struck-by-object claims. These cases are complex and require a comprehensive understanding of various theories of tort liability and defenses.

Under New Hampshire premises liability laws, stadium owners and operators must take reasonable steps to protect visitors and guests from foreseeable harm. However, generally, courts operate under the premise that professional sport event attendees should understand the risk of attending an event, as it is obvious that an object can hit them. Historically, the “baseball” rule shielded baseball teams or sponsoring organizations from liability if a spectator is struck by a foul ball batted into the stands. The rule applies if the owner or operator provided some netting or screening. However, in light of some recent cases, the rule has come under scrutiny.

While spectators who attend professional sporting events may assume the inherent dangers of the event, the venue still has a responsibility to protect its spectators as these injuries can have long-lasting and potentially fatal consequences. For instance, national sources recently reported on a settlement between the Astros and the parents of a toddler who was hit by a foul ball. The toddler attended a 2019 Houston Astros game when she was hit by a ball off the bat of a Cubs center fielder. The impact resulted in a fractured skull and permanent brain damage. The family waited two years after the accident to seek damages against the team. They stated that the delay was so that the family could completely understand the lasting impact of the incident. The girl is now four years old and has been on anti-seizure medicine since the incident.

Despite widespread media depictions, slip-and-fall accidents are rarely straightforward and often present injury victims with significant challenges. New Hampshire slip-and-fall accident claims require injury victims to present legally sound cases. In order to recover, plaintiffs must ensure that their cases are solid enough to overcome legal and factual challenges from the defense. New Hampshire injury victims should consult with an attorney to discuss their rights and remedies after a slip-and-fall.

A defendant may present legal challenges based on jurisdiction, discovery, evidentiary issues, and jury charges. The majority of these challenges stem from a statutory basis, New Hampshire state and federal rules of evidence, and civil procedure rules. Plaintiffs must ensure that they file their complaints in the appropriate court. In most cases, the law requires the claim to be filed in the location where the incident happened. However, in certain situations, there may be more than one appropriate venue for the claim. There are many considerations an injury victim should evaluate before deciding where to file a claim.

Moreover, many slip-and-fall victims face challenges during discovery. Discovery is the process of gathering evidence and witnesses to support your claim. A recent piece by a woman who fell and shattered her arm on an icy sidewalk highlights the importance of effective and complete discovery. The woman faced many issues pursuing her claim and explained the importance of documenting evidence after an incident. This includes photographing the scene, seeking medical treatment, informing the property owner, and establishing expenses.

Individuals who suffer injuries at a construction site may be able to recover compensation for their damages. Depending on the accident’s circumstances, New Hampshire construction site plaintiffs may file negligence, defective product, or wrongful death claim. Construction accidents often involve the interplay of various statutes. It is essential that injury victims or their loved ones contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss their rights and remedies.

The United States Department of Labor created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to ensure safe working conditions by developing and enforcing standards, training, education, and assistance. Although the law requires construction site managers to abide by OSHA regulations, the rules and regulations are ignored in many situations. Dismissing these crucial standards can lead to serious safety concerns and injuries for those walking or driving near the construction site.

The most common types of New Hampshire construction site accidents involve slip and falls, structural collapses, toxic material spills, electrical shocks, explosions, equipment accidents, vehicle collisions, and crane accidents. Unlike construction site workers who have experience handling defective equipment or dangerous conditions and are equipped with safety gear, those passing by construction sites are at a heightened risk for serious injuries.

Recently, a court issued an opinion stemming from an accident a woman suffered at a New Hampshire gym. The woman filed a negligence claim against the gym, and in response, the fitness center moved to dismiss the case. According to the court’s opinion, the woman entered into a membership agreement (the agreement) with the gym. The agreement included a release of liability, which stated that the fitness center would not be liable for any injury resulting from its negligence or due to the negligence of anyone acting on the center’s behalf.

The case arose when the woman was exercising at the gym and walked towards a trash can to throw away a used towel. The woman tripped on uneven flooring, hitting an uncovered bolt from a chain-link fence. The woman broke her wrist and suffered a gash on her right arm. In response to the lawsuit, the gym argued that the agreement barred the plaintiff’s claim. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the release violates public policy. In the alternative, she claimed that a reasonable person would not understand the agreement to protect the gym from liability for the type of injuries she suffered.

Under New Hampshire law, exculpatory releases or liability of waivers are generally prohibited unless they are not contrary to public policy, and the release is specific and clear. Courts typically find releases to violate public policy if it interferes with public welfare or safety. Further, a policy may be invalid if there is apparent unfair bargaining power between the parties. Generally, exculpatory waivers in the recreational contexts are not invalid because recreation is not a “necessity.”

In general, landowners are responsible for keeping their property in a reasonably safe condition for their guests. However, New Hampshire has laws that limit landowners’ liability for injuries that occur on their property. Lawmakers designed these limited liability statues to encourage owners to open their land for public use. Although the idea behind these statutes makes sense on some level, the laws present significant challenges to injury victims seeking compensation for their injuries. In effect, the statutes provide property owners, lessees, and occupants who permit the public to use their land without cost with far-reaching protections against liability.

As a general matter, property owners do not owe any duty of care to individuals who enter their land for recreational purposes or to observe recreational activities. As such, the law does not impute any liability for personal injury or property damage that a recreational user may claim. The statute is so broad that owners do not even maintain the duty to inspect their property, provide warnings for hazardous conditions, or keep the property safe for entry.

However, the statute does not apply to situations where the owner engages in intentional or malicious conduct that results in injuries. Further, the statute does not protect landowners that charge an admission cost, collect a fee, or receive any other type of consideration to use their land. Further, the statute does not protect landowners when a recreational user causes injuries to another person to whom the owner owes a duty.

New Hampshire personal injury lawsuits can stem from all types of incidents, ranging from car accidents to slip and falls to defective products. However, in some cases, unusual accidents can lead to serious injuries or death. These cases are particularly challenging because there tends to be a lack of case law addressing the specific situation, and establishing liability may involve a complicated investigation. A New Hampshire personal injury attorney can help individuals in these situations determine their rights and remedies.

The law does not provide a distinct or clear-cut definition for the term unusual accident, but these accidents often arise after a series of unlikely events occurring around the same time. For example, a New Hampshire news report recently described an unusual incident. Firefighters were responding to a call that a woman suffered burns in a kitchen fire. While they were en route to the scene, the firefighters received another call that a pickup truck ran over a gas can, causing a fire.

Responders explained that when they arrived, they saw that three people experienced burns. The fire chief stated that a pickup truck driver ran over a gasoline can near the house of the woman they were initially responding to. The can was crushed, and the fuel spilled, and fumes entered an open window of the house. The pilot light on the stove ignited the fumes, burning the woman working near the stove. The woman ran into a lake while the other two victims worked to put out the fire.

Statistically, airplane crashes are rare; however, people often suffer other injuries and accidents during air travel. The international treaty, known as the Montreal Convention (the Treaty), governs liability and compensation in cases where a New Hampshire victim suffers injuries or death during airline travel. The treaty provides that airlines may be liable for personal injury or wrongful death of a passenger on an international flight, between two qualifying nations. New Hampshire injury victims who wish to recover under this treaty must establish that their injury or death arose from an “accident” on board of an aircraft, in the “course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking.”

An “accident” is an unexpected or unusual event that is external to the victim. Courts have applied this nebulous term to injuries that result from hijackings, passenger assaults, and an airline’s failure to provide adequate medical attention to a passenger. Issues often arise when the injury-causing event occurs outside of the plane. In these cases, courts will determine whether the victim was in the “operation” of embarking or disembarking. This inquiry typically requires the court to evaluate factors such as where the passenger was when the event occurred, what the victim was doing at the time of the incident, and the location of the passenger to the plane.

Additionally, the Treaty requires that a passenger brings their suit within two years of the “date of the arrival at the destination, or from the date on which the aircraft should have arrived, or from the date on which the carriage stopped.” Plaintiffs who do not abide by the strict statute of limitations may risk dismissal and waive their right to recovery. For example, in a recent case, a state appellate court issued an opinion addressing issues that may apply to when someone is injured while on an airplane.

New Hampshire law allows those who are injured by the use of a defective product to bring a personal injury claim against the product’s manufacturer, retailer, supplier, or even sometimes another related party. These suits, called “product liability” lawsuits, sometimes lead to a discussion of what exactly constitutes a product. For example, if a water slide at an amusement park is defective and leads to a user’s injuries, can they file product liability suit against the park? Recently, a state appellate court considered this exact issue in a decision that may shed insight into how New Hampshire courts would handle the same situation.

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff in the case was visiting a theme park operated by the defendant. He went down a water slide at the park, but during the course of his ride, he accidentally slipped from a seated position on an inner tube onto his stomach. When he entered the splash pool at the end of the slide, his feet hit the bottom of the pool, causing him to fracture his hip and his pelvis.

The plaintiff sued the defendant under a theory of product liability, claiming that the water slide was a defective product that caused his injuries. The plaintiff argued that he could sue the operator of the park because they were in the water slide’s “chain of distribution.” The defendant asked the court to dismiss this claim, arguing that the doctrine of product liability did not apply because they were not supplying the plaintiff with the product, but instead delivered an amusement “service” to him. As such, the court had to consider this important question: is purchasing a ticket to an amusement park and riding a water slide at an amusement park considered a product or a service? Put another way, were guests to the amusement park buying tickets to the park primarily to use the water slides, or primarily to obtain a service which may involve the use of water slides? If the former, then product liability is appropriate. If the latter, then is it not.

Many New Hampshire homes were built years ago, and although these residences come with a certain charm, they may also pose serious dangers to residents. One common health hazard that individuals may suffer related to these homes is exposure to lead and lead poisoning. Lead paint was commonly used in New Hampshire homes before Congress’ ban in 1978.

Studies suggest that almost 40 million homes in the United States built before the 60s contain lead paint. Many of the homes containing a concerning amount of lead paint include children under six years old. This is alarming because exposure to lead paint can lead to lead poisoning, which can cause severe permanent damage.

Recently, an appellate court in New Hampshire issued an opinion in a consolidated action between a landlord seeking unpaid rent and tenants who alleged that their children suffered harm as a result of lead exposure while living in the landlord’s property. The couple moved into the landlord’s apartment when their twin children were one year old. Several months later, the parents became concerned about developmental delays. At their check-up, both children received lead testing, which revealed elevated levels. The family moved out of the residence, and their landlord filed an action against them, seeking unpaid rent. The family presented expert evidence suggesting that the children’s delays were related to lead in the apartment. The landlord argued that the expert’s finding should be excluded because his methodology was unsupported by medical literature. The appellate court ultimately remanded the case, but found that experts in these cases are not required to base their opinions on one specific type of methodology, so long as their methods are reliable.

Winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding are a way of life for many in New Hampshire and throughout the Northeast. And while skiing and snowboarding are great ways to get exercise and experience the outdoors, there are also certain risks involved in these activities. Some of these risks are inherent in the sport itself, however, many risks can be greatly magnified when ski resorts fail to take the necessary precautions to ensure that the lifts and ski runs are safe for guests.

Of course, ski resorts should take all steps to make the resort safe. However, each year there are hundreds of people who are seriously injured in New Hampshire ski accidents. While some of these accidents involve the negligence of a skier or snowboarder, many would have otherwise been preventable had the resort exercised reasonable caution. However, under New Hampshire premises liability law, some ski resorts may be immune from liability based on the state’s “ski immunity” statute.

In part because the ski tourism industry is such a vital part of the state’s economy, lawmakers have passed certain statutes that shield ski resorts from liability. Specifically, section 225-A:24 states that “Each person who participates in the sport of skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and snowshoeing accepts as a matter of law, the dangers inherent in the sport,” and cannot bring a lawsuit against a resort based on these “inherent risks, dangers or hazards.”

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