Deck Collapse Raises Questions

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Last night, at Shuckers Waterfront Grill, a popular Miami bar and grill, the establishment’s wooden deck abruptly collapsed, causing unsuspecting patrons to fall into the Biscayne Bay below, along with the tables and umbrellas lining the patio. Not only did this incident scare the patrons, who were dumped into the water as a result of the deck’s unexpected collapse, but it also raised questions concerning the owner’s liability for these injuries. Investigators will certainly check the owner’s records to determine the last time this deck was inspected, or whether any work has been performed on the deck since the last inspection. At the time of the incident, there were around 100 customers on the deck. These patrons were cheering on the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals literally moments before being dumped into the Bay. Before police arrived, some brave bartenders and patrons rescued those still struggling to make their way out of the Bay and onto solid ground. As many as two dozen were injured as a result of the deck’s collapse, and fifteen were taken to the hospital, with two in serious condition. A news article detailing the incident can be found here.
Unfortunately, situations like this arise more than you think. The premises owner, or the party occupying the land, owes a duty to the guests on his or her land, and the owner may be held responsible for any injuries that occur on the property. In Premises Liability cases, the injured party must show the following elements: 1) the owner owed a duty to the injured party, 2) the owner breached this duty, 3) the injured party suffered damages as a result of this breach, and 4) a causal connection exists between the owner’s breach and the resulting injuries.
To establish these elements, the status, or classification, of the injured party must be considered to determine what duty, if any, the owner owed the injured party. In Mississippi, the injured party may be grouped into one of three categories: invitee, licensee, or trespasser. An invitee enters the premises in response to an express or implied invitation from the owner, for the mutual benefit of both parties. In the article discussed above, the patrons of the restaurant were business invitees, because they entered the restaurant under an invitation from the owner, for the mutual benefit of both parties. A licensee enters the premises, in accordance with the owner’s license or implied permission, for his or her own convenience, benefit, or enjoyment. However, a trespasser enters the premises without permission, lacking either a license or invitation from the owner.
After determining the status of the injured party – whether invitee, licensee, or trespasser – the next step is to determine whether the owner breached his or her duty. According to Mississippi law, a premises owner owes a duty to an invitee to keep the premises reasonably safe, and to warn of dangers that are hidden from plain view. However, the owner merely owes licensees and trespassers the duty to not willfully or wantonly injure these visitors.
Next, causation must be considered. In simple terms, the injured party must prove that his or her injury was proximately caused by the owner’s breach of duty. Proximate Cause is the cause which ultimately produced the plaintiff’s injury; or the act which, if it did not occur, the injury would not have resulted. Lastly, the injured party must establish damages resulting from his or her injury on the owner’s premises.
While Premises Liability cases can be difficult to litigate, the attorneys at Coxwell & Associates are more than capable of handling these cases. If you, or a loved one, have any legal questions regarding Premises Liability, or any other legal issue, do not hesitate to call us. For more information, please visit our website.

Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.

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