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Can’t Begin to Explain to a Jury the Reason You Want to Sue

I’m David Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss personal injury law topics.

Today’s podcast is a little different. Usually, we discuss answers to frequently asked questions. But in this episode, I’m going to explore why I can’t even begin to explain to a jury the ridiculous reason a caller wants to sue.

We received a call from a person claiming she was injured at a cafe in another state. She was in the restroom leaning on the sink. She was joking around with her friend who was taking too long in a toilet stall, telling the friend to hurry up and said, “I’m just gonna go [urinate] in the sink then.” As she leaned on the sink to do so, the sink came off the wall, and she fell on it. The glass shattered, cutting nerves in her hand requiring surgery for nerve damage. She is missing time from work, has mounting medical bills, and is in tremendous pain. She is wondering if she can sue.

When we get calls of this nature, we do our best to take them seriously and address the caller’s question.

It’s easy to think that any time you are hurt on someone else’s property, it’s the property owner’s fault. But that’s not always the case.

Suppose you misuse the property in a manner that was not intended and unanticipated. In that case, you certainly will receive significant pushback from the defendant if you sue.

In this caller’s situation, she was using a bathroom sink in a manner in which it was not designed to be used.

Most sinks are built to building code, and no building code requires a sink to be constructed and installed to bear the total weight of an individual.

We’ve all probably seen in a public restroom a foldout shelf that is to be used as a diaper change shelf for a baby. No one could reasonably expect that shelf to support the weight of a full-size adult.

When someone sues for an injury, a jury must evaluate the conduct of all the parties involved. First, the reasonableness of the defendant’s activity must be evaluated. Second, the reasonableness of the plaintiff’s conduct must be considered.

Based on the caller’s explanation of what happened, I’m at a complete loss regarding how to justify the caller’s conduct.

That said, I’ve had cases where a person slips on a water spill on a restroom floor and falls against a sink, and then the sink comes down on them and causes an injury. That case of a sink coming loose and breaking can be reasonably explained. The activity of the person grabbing onto it to try to keep themselves from falling makes sense. But purposely putting all of your weight on an object not designed to bear your weight strikes me as unreasonable.

There may be other attorneys who would take a case like this. But I’d have to decline and pass.

We have had some successful cases where supplied restroom furnishings have collapsed to result in serious injury.

One such case involved a fellow who stopped at a motel. He was paralyzed from the waist down and required unique equipment in a special shower with wheelchair access. When he slid off the wheelchair onto a handicap shower stool supplied by the motel, the chair collapsed, resulting in serious injury.

We were able to establish that someone at the motel put together the plastic handicap shower stool and over-tightened the screws in the legs of the chair, and that caused the seat to collapse. We were able to get a very sizable settlement for the client.

So, the bottom line is sometimes we listen to injury stories that we just can’t justify filing a lawsuit over.

That’s not to say that another attorney might not see something valid in a case where we don’t. However, to do an excellent job for a client, we have to present an argument to a jury that we believe in.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you are a victim of someone’s carelessness, substandard medical care, a product defect, work injury, or another personal injury, please call (219) 736-9700 with your questions. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there, make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth.”