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Law firm must pay premises liability damages to chair victim

When a meeting with a professional in his or her office results in a serious enough personal injury to a potential client the purpose of the meeting tends to get lost, and the need for entirely different outcomes may overtake its original purpose. This happened in a locality outside of Massachusetts when a man was meeting with a personal injury lawyer about retaining the lawyer's services. The chair he occupied collapsed and he suffered disabling injuries unrelated to the injuries being discussed in the meeting. The potential client made a claim for personal injury based on premises liability against the personal injury law firm.

He won that claim when a jury entered a verdict in his favor in the sum of $2.2 million in 2009. Since then the case has been on appeal. The man had sued both the law firm and the manufacturer of the chair. In that sense, the case contains two separate legal theories: premises liability against the law firm and products liability against the chair manufacturer.

The case was recently resolved by the Florida Supreme Court. The verdict had awarded one-third against the law firm and two-thirds against the chair maker. An appellate court, however, reversed the jury's verdict and said that causation had not been established. The Florida Supreme Court recently put the matter to rest by reversing the appellate court and holding rightly that the determination of causation is a factual finding of the jury. The appellate judges tried to replace their factual opinions with that of the jury, which was impermissible.

There were two opposing experts at the trial, each with a differing opinion on how the law firm could have searched for and discovered the dangerous condition of the chair. The Supreme Court held that the jury had a right to decide which expert's opinion it agreed with. The same reasoning would likely apply to similar facts in a Massachusetts premises liability case.

Source: ABA Journal, Ex-client in $2.2M law firm chair-collapse case wins reinstatement of 'substantial' verdict, Martha Neil, Oct. 24, 2013

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