A woman who tripped on a rug and fell while volunteering at a Myrtle Beach recreation center Bingo game won a $547,128.93 verdict last month.
The court reduced her damages to $300,000 after the trial which is the cap imposed by the South Carolina Tort Claims Act.
Premises Liability and South Carolina Slip and Fall Laws
You can’t sue an establishment just because you tripped and fell on the premises. Like other tort claims, the person who fell must establish:
- That the operator of the establishment owed a duty to the plaintiff;
- That they breached that duty;
- That the injured person suffered damages; and
- That the operator’s negligence was the proximate cause of those damages.
In a premises liability case like this one, the plaintiff also must prove that the operator of the establishment had notice of the dangerous condition and that they had the opportunity to correct it and did not. In this case, the staff at the rec center were told that the rugs were a safety hazard, and they did nothing to correct the situation.
The City of Myrtle Beach owed a duty to everyone who came onto the premises to maintain a safe environment. When they didn’t fix the rugs after being warned that they were dangerous, they breached that duty to the woman who tripped on the rugs.
Is Suing a City Different Than Suing a Business?
Liability and the amount of damages that can be recovered are severely limited in lawsuits against government agencies and municipalities. The rule, as a starting point, is that the King can do no wrong…
In the beginning, America borrowed our civil law from the common law of England where you were not allowed to sue the King (the government). Eventually, the U.S. federal government passed the Federal Tort Claims Act, which gives citizens permission to sue the government under certain circumstances, and South Carolina followed with the S.C. Tort Claims Act (SCTCA).
The SCTCA allows citizens to sue the state but only under certain conditions and with limitations. The time limit for filing suit is reduced to two years instead of three. The lawsuit must name an agency or municipality as defendants and cannot name the individuals whose negligence caused the injuries. No punitive damages can be awarded, and damages are capped at $300,000 per claim. Although the jurors determined that the amount of the plaintiff’s damages was $547,128.93, the judge had no choice but to reduce the verdict to $300,000.
In most cases, suing a municipality is an uphill battle and getting just compensation will be a fight. The insurance defense lawyers who represent the City know that damages will be capped at $300,000 following a trial. They are not likely to settle a case for policy limits of $300,000 when they know that it is not possible for a plaintiff to get more at trial. Even if they are hit with a maximum verdict following a trial, they have lost nothing by forcing the plaintiff to prove their claims to a jury.
Do You Need Help with a Slip and Fall Case?
If you have suffered injuries caused by someone else’s carelessness, we will carefully review your case and put together the evidence that you need to prove your claims. Schedule a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case by calling (843) 488-5000 or filling out our online form.