Suing Multiple Defendants in South Carolina Premise Liability Claim

Slip-and-fall injuries in Rock Hill may represent straightforward premise liability claims.
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That is, the owner of the property knew or should have known of a certain hazard and failed to correct or warn of it when he or she had a duty to do so, resulting in a proximate injury to the plaintiff.

But there are other cases, such as the one in Crabtree v. BASF Building Systems, LLC, in which multiple defendants may be deemed responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries.

On the surface, this case seemed to be a fairly simple slip-and-fall lawsuit. As it was later revealed, however, there was reason for the plaintiff to suspect multiple parties failed in their duty of care to ensure the parking deck where he fell was safe for public use. Unfortunately, however, the case proved tougher than initially believed, though he did prevail in obtaining a settlement from one of the four defendants.

According to court records, the plaintiff was on site for a doctor’s visit when he slipped and fell on the top level of the parking deck attached to the medical facility. The fall caused the plaintiff to sustain serious and permanent injuries.

The parking deck was clearly owned by the medical center, but what later became an issue was the type of coating used on the surface of the deck and the way in which it was applied.

As the plaintiff attorneys would later learn, construction crews used a product called Sonoguard to seal the concrete of the parking deck. This was a product manufactured by a company called ChemRex Inc., which was later bought out by a firm called BASF.

Per the manufacturer’s instructions, the product had to be properly installed in order to work the way it was intended, and the intention was to create enough traction on the surface so that it was not a fall risk.

The process for proper installation involved the application of a base coat, allowing that base coat to fully cure, and then applying a second top coat, which must then be blasted with sand or some other type of grainy material in order to provide slip resistance.

Per ChemRex instructions, installers are to initiate a test strip on the surface to make sure the surface is safe before applying the product to an entire work area.

Technical advisers for BASF reported that a common problem with installation is that workers fail to put enough sand (or other aggregate) on that second top coat, which would result in a slick surface, particularly when wet.

Documents relating to the work previously done on the parking deck revealed that the medical center began receiving complaints soon after installation that the Sonoguard was wearing out prematurely. The manufacturer was even notified of this, and in turn wrote a memo to a superior, speculating that the aggregate was poorly applied.

Remediation work was conducted, with a manufacturer representative on site to answer questions for the contractor, but the product again soon began wearing out. The manufacturer representative reported observing improper preparation of the concrete, citing that as the probable reason why the product kept wearing out.

In hiring the same contractor to do the work on the top level of the deck, the medical facility insisted a representative from BASF be present to inspect the project, the preparation and the finished product. The manufacturer agreed.

While manufacturers typically can’t be held liable when their products aren’t installed according to instruction, it was this increased level of involvement that prompted the plaintiffs to assert the manufacturer was responsible.

The medical center and the contractor settled the injury claim with the plaintiff. A claim against a third defendant was dismissed.

The claim against the manufacturer made it all the way to the Alabama Supreme Court, which determined that not enough evidence had been presented to show that the advice provided by the manufacturer to the contractor regarding the insulation directly caused the surface conditions that led to the plaintiff’s injurious fall.

Premise liability claims can be tough to prove as it is, and they are even more complex where multiple defendants are involved. Make sure the legal team you hire has experience in such matters.

Contact our Rock Hill slip-and-fall personal injury lawyers at Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Crabtree v. BASF Building Systems, LLC, Dec. 30, 2013, Alabama Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:
Are We Safe? New Report on State Building Safety Inspections and Codes, Aug. 31, 2013, Rock Hill Premise Liability Lawyer Blog

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