Just about everyone has slipped and fallen at some point in their lives. When you do so at work and it causes you to never perform at the same level, that’s a slip and fall that may result in a serious lawsuit. One such case recently ruled in favor of Canadian professional tennis athlete Eugenie Bouchard, who claimed a slippery locker room fall that resulted in a serious personal injury has had significant effects on her tennis career.
In February 2018, a U.S. district court in New York ruled that the United States Tennis Association (USTA) was liable for a disastrous slip and fall accident Bouchard experienced in 2015. The accident forced her to retire from the U.S. Open that same year. Her career-high rank of 5th in the world in 2014 has fallen to 116th today.
During the September 2015 U.S. Open, the now-24-year-old Bouchard alleges she walked into a physiotherapy area of the National Tennis Center’s locker room to take an ice bath, wearing flip-flops, shorts and a sports bra. She slipped on a slippery substance, causing her to fall and crack her head.
The substance, which was a chemical cleaning spray, covered her back and caused her to scream out, “Oh my god, it burns!”, according to Bouchard’s testimony. The incident resulted in a concussion that forced Bouchard to withdraw from the tennis tournament, even though she was still active in both the singles and doubles brackets.
The lawsuit also alleged that the injury resulted in problems in subsequent tournaments. After experiencing dizziness shortly after withdrawing from the U.S. Open, she also retired from a match in progress at the China Open in Beijing, her first match since her injury.
How Bouchard Argued that the USTA Was Negligent
Bouchard alleged that because the USTA applied the slippery, chemical-filled cleaning spray in a dimly lit room, the organization put others like herself in danger. Despite the USTA pushing back that Bouchard should not have entered the training room without a trainer, and that she should have known that the room would be cleaned at that time of night, the burden of negligence was placed on the USTA.
While the USTA stated that the spray was only applied in the training room after management had believed all other parties had left, jurors were presented with evidence that there was nothing in the players’ handbook that stipulated players could only enter the training room at a certain time, or that they needed to be with a trainer upon doing so.
Slip and fall accidents can happen in a variety of places: at work, at a sporting event, while shopping, or at any other public place. If you experience a slip and fall that results in serious personal injury, here are some signs negligence is to blame.
There was no warning that a slippery substance was on the ground.
If a venue owner applies something that could cause a slip and fall accident, visitors to that area should be adequately warned with clear signage, or the slippery area should be blocked off completely.
A dirty area that should have been cleaned was not.
Sometimes slip and fall accidents happen right after a spill, and the fall is truly an accident because venue managers were not aware of the danger. However, if someone tells a venue manager about a potential hazard, and there is a delay in cleaning it up, this may be considered negligence. As well, there is a responsibility venue managers hold that they keep all visitors safe, and that includes proactively monitoring and removing hazards.
The property manager should have prevented the accident.
If there is an unmaintained portion of the property that had a direct impact on causing the slip and fall accident, that negligence falls on the property owner. For example, a leak in the ceiling that goes unfixed and causes a pile-up of water is due to the property owner’s neglect.
How Are Settlements in Slip and Fall Accidents Determined?
While the settlement amount in the Bouchard case is unspecified, there are many factors that can make slip and fall accidents like hers significant. These include:
- Medical bills from injuries
- Financial loss due to time missed off work
- Impact the fall has on future work performance
If you have been in a slip and fall accident and believe negligence is to blame, please contact the Birmingham personal injury attorney team at Pittman, Dutton & Hellums for a free consultation.