Ainsworth v. Chandler: On Third Party Interveners in Premises Liability Cases

Ainsworth v. Chandler, a case heard in the Supreme Court of Vermont, involved a woman (“Plaintiff”) who was injured at a business owned by Defendant. Plaintiff was at Defendant’s electrical company when she tripped on a coil of wires that had been left in a stairway.

stairs.jpgAccording to court records, Defendant was leading her down the set of stairs when the coil of wire caught her ankle and caused her to fall. Plaintiff testified that she did not see the coil of wires prior to her fall.

Plaintiff has alleged that she suffered permanent injuries, including partial blindness, damage to her ankle, a broken tooth and painful cuts and bruises.

At the time of her accident, Plaintiff had been dating Defendant for the past six months, and her purpose for being at that location was that she was visiting her boyfriend.

Defendant filed a civil lawsuit against his liability insurance company on grounds they breached the terms of their coverage agreement by not awarding her the more than $1 million in damages she had requested. In response to this lawsuit, the insurance company denied any and all liability and counterclaimed for a declaration of noncoverage on grounds that he had breached his agreement. Plaintiff filed her lawsuit against Defendant four months later.

In her lawsuit, Plaintiff demanded over $2 million in damages and, in response, Defendant admitted to liability and conceded to the allegations in the complaint. When his insurance company learned of Defendant’s admissions, it intervened in the lawsuit to protect its interests. As our Spartanburg premises liability lawyers know, a third party can intervene in an ongoing lawsuit if their interests will be substantially affected by the outcome of the pending litigation.

Once a party to the action, the insurance company filed a motion for summary judgment on grounds that Plaintiff was a mere social guest of Defendant, and his only duty of care was to warn his guest of known dangers. Insurer argued that, since he did not know the coil of wires was a danger to people walking down the stairs, he had no duty to warn her of its presence. The trial court granted the insurance company’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the case.

In South Carolina, Rule 56 of the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure governs motions for summary judgment. This motion is filed when a party has asserted that there is no dispute as to the material facts in the case and, even if the facts are considered in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, a jury cannot find for the other party.
On appeal, the court agreed that there was no dispute as to any material fact. The Plaintiff had made several allegations, and Defendant had admitted to all of the allegations. The court found that Plaintiff was a social guest of Defendant, and he was only required to warn her of known dangers. The court noted that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting the motion for summary judgment and affirmed the dismissal.

Contact the Spartanburg injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Ainsworth v. Chandler, Aug. 29, 2014, Supreme Court of Vermont

More Blog Entries:

Brouwer v. Sisters of Charity Providence: The Common Knowledge Exception to the Expert Witness Requirement in South Carolina, Aug. 15, 2014, Spartanburg Personal Injury Lawyer Blog

Contact Information