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A plaintiff is not barred as a matter of law from proving causation in a slip and fall case if there were no witnesses to the fall and they do not remember the fall

California

,

USA

A slip-and-fall plaintiff need not remember their fall or have witnesses to the fall to recover damages provided that the evidence gives rise to a reasonable and probable inference that the defendant’s negligence was a substantial contributing factor In Kaney v. Custance, B302835A (Cal. Ct. App. January 21, 2022), the California Court of Appeal for the Second District held that the trial court erred when it concluded that the appellant’s inability to remember the fall, and lack of witnesses to the fall, meant that she lacked nonspeculative evidence of causation. The appellant testified that at the time of the injury she was on the stairs and then woke up on the floor but did not remember the fall itself. The Court explained that if the evidence in the case gives rise to a reasonable and probable inference that the defendant’s negligence was a substantial contributing factor, then the plaintiff need not remember the fall, or have witnesses to the fall, to recover damages. Whether the absence of a handrail, the size of the risers, or a combination of both caused the appellant to fall was within common knowledge When causation presents a question that is within common knowledge, expert testimony is not required to prove causation. Whether the fact that the stairs did not have a handrail or the size of the risers, or a combination of both, caused the appellant to fall was within common knowledge. Caselaw permits an inference that the condition of the stairs caused the appellant’s fall To survive summary judgment, a plaintiff must show that the inferences favorable to them are more reasonable or probable than the inferences against them. The Court noted that while a handrail or safely sized risers would not have blocked the appellant’s fall, a trier of fact could still reasonably infer that they would have prevented the fall. Furthermore, the inference that the lack of a handrail and the unsafe riser height were substantial factors in the appellant’s fall is more reasonable and probable than an inference that the appellant would have fallen regardless of the condition of the stairs. Disposition The Court reversed the trial court’s summary judgment order in favor of the defendants.

April 14, 2022
Kaney v. Custance,  B302835A (Cal. Ct. App. January 21, 2022)
California Courts