Recent Tennessee Case – Premise Owner’s Liability For Negligent Construction by Contractor

In the recent case of Greg Parker, et al. v. Holiday Hospitality Franchising, Inc., et al., the Tennessee Court of Appeals addressed liability for a premise owner arising out of the negligent work completed by an independent contractor.  This case was appealed from the Circuit Court for Roane County following summary judgment in favor of the hotel.

Rule – a premise owner may not be liable for negligent construction of the premises unless he or she caused the condition or had some notice of the condition prior to the accident.

The facts are straight forward.  Greg Parker, a paraplegic, requested a handicapped accessible room.  Parker noticed the shower bench was not secured to the wall and requested a different room.  A maintenance request was submitted by the manager and the hotel dispatched maintenance to inspect and tighten the bolts.  When Parker returned to the hotel, he was advised that the bench had been repaired.  After a ten minute shower, the bench collapsed and Parker fell to the floor sustaining multiple compression fractures.  This case was dismissed by the trial court on summary judgment.  On appeal, the court revisited the Tennessee Supreme Court decision in Blair v. West Town Mall, 130 S.W.3d 761 (Tenn. 2004).  In Blair, the Tennessee Supreme Court found that in addition to the elements of negligence, plaintiff must establish: (1) The condition was caused or created by the owner, operator or his agent, or (2) That the condition was created by someone other than the owner, operator, or his agent, that the owner had actual or constructive notice that the condition existed prior to the accident.

130 S.W.3d at 764.  In light of this standard, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s granting of summary judgment on the grounds that defendant had a duty to exercise reasonable care and diligence to ensure that the shower benches performed as designed and that there was material evidence from which the trier of fact could conclude that the condition existed for a sufficient time and under certain circumstances that one exercising reasonable care and diligence would have discovered the danger.  The Court did not express any opinion as to whether the defendant actually had constructive notice of the dangerous condition or breached the applicable duty.

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