Hotel’s Liability Hotly Contested

Plaintiff Attorney: Martin Alvey

City, Co., State: Tillamook County Circuit Court, Oregon

Claims Alleged: Personal Injury

Injuries Alleged: Broken Ankle

Admitted Liability: No

Amount Claimed: $105,992.10

The Overview

The plaintiff in this case brought a suit for personal injuries against a hotel when she allegedly stepped into a pothole while walking across the property’s parking lot. Smith Freed Eberhard successfully defended its client, with the case settling for only a fraction of plaintiff’s initial demands.

The Background

The plaintiff was staying at the hotel on the Oregon coast and claimed that during the evening she was walking her dog from her hotel room across the hotel’s dimly lit parking lot when she stepped awkwardly into the hole. It was undisputed that the plaintiff suffered a distal fibula fracture to her ankle. 

The hotel owner adamantly denied the claim as she had a completely different version as to how the plaintiff’s injured occurred. The hotel had a strict “no pet” policy anywhere on the premises. The following morning, the hotel owner noticed the plaintiff with her dog in the room. According to the owner, the plaintiff explained she had been walking on the beach with her dog that morning and had turned her ankle awkwardly on a rock, and she was just giving her dog some water before heading to the car. The plaintiff stubbornly denied taking her dog to the beach. 

Plaintiffs Theme

Plaintiff’s objective was to get the court to believe her version of events, which happened to differ drastically from what defendant recalled and what the evidence showed. Plaintiff set out to prove that she injured herself on the hotel property, not the beach, otherwise damages against the defendant would not be appropriate.

Our Strategy

The plaintiff sought past and future medical expenses, past wage loss and impaired earnings capacity totaling well over $100,000.  Over the course of litigation, our strategy was to convey that there were several key inconsistencies with plaintiff’s story. The main goal was to demonstrate for the court that plaintiff’s version of events were not reasonable.

In deposition, the plaintiff admitted knowing that the dog was not allowed in the room and was required to stay in her car parked outside the parking lot, and she would never have thought to violate the policy.  She claimed bringing the dog to her room only that one time because of her ankle injury.  Curiously, the pothole was only a few feet from her room, and according to her story she was with her dog walking in the direction to her car from her room when she stepped in the hole.  The evidence further demonstrated that the pothole was in an open, unobstructed area clearly illuminated by motion-sensor lights.

The Outcome

In the end, the parties agreed to a nominal settlement of $19,500, which included $5,000 in no-fault medical benefits to plaintiff. As usual, Smith Freed Eberhard’s clients were very pleased with the result.

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