Thomas J. Johnson successfully defended a local resort at trial in Warren County. Plaintiff sued the Defendant Resort claiming that it was negligent in the use of natural logs as a wheel stop and having insufficient lighting in the area where the wheel stop was located. Plaintiff had exited the passenger side of her car and walked in the darkened area between the front of her car and the wall of her cabin. In the course of her journey the plaintiff stepped on a log that was being used as a parking stop in that portion of the small parking area next to the cabin. It was raining at the time, and the log had bark on portions of it and the remainder was bare. Plaintiff alleged that she had stepped on a portion which was covered with bark, but that the bark broke away from the underlying log. Plaintiff claimed that the negligence was leaving the bark on the log, as it was foreseeable that bark would become loose as the log aged, and that the condition of peeling bark was known to the Resort since a large portion of the log was already bare. Plaintiff sustained a broken ankle, and then suffered significant complications requiring five surgeries and extensive hospitalizations before her condition stabilized with a fusion of the ankle. Plaintiff’s orthopedic surgeon testified at trial regarding her injury and medical treatment following the fall. Plaintiff also called a landscape architect who testified that the use of an untreated barked log as a wheel stop was unsafe and was not justified even by the rustic ambience that was the appeal of the Resort.
Mr. Johnson argued that there were no regulations or standards which prohibit the use of a natural log under these circumstances, that the use of a natural log was reasonable and could be expected by the nature of the rustic Resort, that there was sufficient lighting in the parking area for the Plaintiff to take a safer alternative route, and that the plaintiff was entirely responsible for the accident as she deliberately chose to walk into an area that she had observed was poorly lit when she was unfamiliar with the area and had no idea what condition she might encounter in the area between the front of the car and the wall of her cabin.
After a six day trial, the jury rendered a “No Cause of Action” verdict in favor of Mr. Johnson’s client, answering the question on the verdict sheet that the defendant had not been negligent.