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Summary Judgment Affirmed in Favor of Coffee Shop after Child is injured

Posted in Firm News

The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently issued an opinion regarding a personal injury lawsuit brought against a popular coffee chain. The opinion is important for New Mexico accident victims to understand because it shows how the same standard can have different exceptions and ultimately different outcomes, depending on the jurisdiction where the case arises.

The Facts of the Case

In 2013, two parents and their two young sons were visiting a popular newly opened coffee shop in Chicago. Apparently, the coffee chain used stanchions that were connected by heavy chains welded to the base to encourage line formation. The base was not affixed to the floor; the reason for this was not made clear. However, the risk of the stanchion falling was noted, since an employee suffered a bruise to her leg when the stanchion previously fell.

On the day of the accident, the two young boys were playing on the ropes when the parents went to the second floor to use the restroom. When the parents came down, they heard one of their sons screaming. The parents immediately rushed the boy to a local hospital. The boy was transferred to a children’s hospital in the hopes that his crushed finger could be saved, but unfortunately it had to be amputated.

The family later commenced a negligence lawsuit against the coffee chain. They alleged that the shop failed to maintain a safe location for customers, to adequately secure the stanchion, to inspect its stability, and to warn the patrons of the potential danger. The coffee shop moved for summary judgment, arguing that the parents were responsible for protecting their children and restricting them from playing on the stanchion.

The Court’s Decision

The case was appealed to the Seventh Circuit. The Court explained that a successful plaintiff must establish duty, the defendant’s breach of that duty, and proximate cause. The state’s courts have recognized certain factors in determining negligence, such as foreseeability and the likelihood of the injury, the difficulty in protecting against it, and the consequences of guarding against it on the defendant. However, unlike other states, Illinois has rejected the attractive nuisance doctrine. Thus, landowners do not owe any greater duty to children, even when the hazard constitutes an attractive nuisance.

The court ultimately determined that the facts do not support finding a duty on behalf of the coffee shop. The court explained that the dangerous nature of the stanchions was visible to the parents, and it was common sense that an injury could occur. Summary judgment was ultimately affirmed in favor of the coffee shop.

New Mexico Premises Liability

Unlike Illinois, in New Mexico under Carmona v. Hagerman Irrigation Co., 125 N.M. 59, 62 (N.M. 1998), the attractive nuisance doctrine is recognized. Generally, property owners do not owe a duty to trespassers; however, there are some exceptions if the trespasser is a child. The attractive nuisance doctrine will sometimes result in liability for property owners if they are aware or should be aware that children may likely trespass and potentially be injured due to a dangerous condition. However, similar to the situation above, there are certain instances in which this may not apply if a parent is found to be negligent in supervising their child.

Has Your Child Been Injured on Another Party’s Property in New Mexico?

If your child has been injured on another party’s property in New Mexico, you should contact the attorneys at the Fine Law Firm to discuss your rights and remedies. These cases can be very emotional and highly complex, due to the various doctrines and exceptions involved. A New Mexico premises liability attorney can help you navigate this area of law, and, if you are successful, you and your child may be entitled to compensation for the injuries they sustained. Contact one of the attorneys at the Fine Law Firm to schedule your free initial consultation at 800-640-6590.

More Blog Posts:

State Recreational Use Statute Shields Stadium from Liability Because Child’s Admission Was Free, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, February 20, 2017.

Court Permits Plaintiff’s Bad-Faith Claim to Proceed Against Insurance Company, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, February 27, 2018.