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Being Sued

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by turfsolutions, Jun 27, 2005.

  1. turfsolutions

    turfsolutions Junior Member
    Messages: 8

    I have been sued for a slip and fall from Dec 2002. I have insurance and they have provided a lawyer. Deposition in 2 months. Anyone with experience willing to share some helpful do's and don'ts for the deposition and any other advice would be great.

    Some backround on the incident:

    2 inch storm
    commercial property
    no written contract
    plowing agreement only
    salt was applied after plowing
    invoice says ice management not provided without written contract
    job was plowed within 1 hour of snow fall ending
    suit filed 2 years after fall
    joinder suit filed by property owner against me

    thanks for any help
  2. plowed

    plowed Senior Member
    Messages: 344

    Sorry to hear that. Get all of your documentation together, eg date, time plowed, snowfall amount, etc similar to what you provided here. The more detail you can provide, the stronger your position. Although you don't have a written contract, provide the specifics of your hand-shake agreement. Did the owner request property to be plowed within one hour of end of storm? For the 2" storm, what was your trigger amount, etc. Details, details, details.

    Good luck.
  3. Mick

    Mick PlowSite.com Veteran
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,546

    Without a written contract, my advice would be to not even admit you were supposed to plow there, at that time, before you talk to your lawyer. First, they'll need to allege, then prove, that you were responsible for doing something, then prove what you were responsible to do.
  4. sonjaab

    sonjaab PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,425

    TURF.............Seems funny.........A claim from 2002?

    There are time limits which vary by state to file a claim on liability.
    But 3 years? Me thinks its waaay to long but your state may vary!

    What does your atty. say?...............geo
  5. justme-

    justme- 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,138

    inmost states the statute of limitations is 3 years- look slike they are trying to get in under the wire.

    Talk to your lawyer first. Not admitting to plowing there until being forced to admit it doesn't look good in court. This could be tricky, depending on the lawyer they have and the state's opinions. I would say the statement on your invoice will work in your favor, but wouldn't be the first time the courts ruled against common sense. Remember they have some splainin to do why it's been so long since they filed, which you're lawyer should make them look bad over anyway.
    Good luck and keep us informed.
  6. MickiRig1

    MickiRig1 PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,617

    I sat on a Jury with a similar case:
    Both parties were acting as their own lawyers! It took TWO HOURS for the suing party to admit he had no written contract binding the other to do the work. As soon as he did the Judge banged the gavel and dismissed the case. Maybe you will luck out and be done before lunch.
  7. Flipper

    Flipper PlowSite.com Addict
    from CT
    Messages: 1,180

    All someone has to do if say they saw you plowing the place, or provide a check with payment for that storm.

    Get the insurance company to settle. Provide all your documentation and then face the fact that someone still slipped and the insurance will pay.
  8. Mick

    Mick PlowSite.com Veteran
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,546

    At least in this state, I would definately urge against settlement. Insurance rates are set by "marks" against you and a settlement would be a mark. In that case, the insurance company may decline to renew your policy. If that happens, no other insurance company would agree to insure you.

    As far as all they have to do is say they saw you plowing or provide a check, they would have to show more than that (again in this State) such as what were you to do, when etc. The contractor may have been just called 10 minutes ago and plowed as agreed. Again, here anyway, a business owner has no obligation to remove snow/ice from his property until "a reasonable time" following cessation of snowfall.

    I would still urge you to talk to your lawyer (not the one the insurance company provides, they are only interested in protecting the insurance company) before discussing the case with anyone.
  9. cet

    cet PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 7,257

    We all spend a great deal of time trying to prove we were there at this time and did all the necessary things. In your defense, make sure the person has witnesses that they actually fell on your property, that they called for medical help and that someone of authority from one of the main stores at that location was called out to help with the situation. They have to prove that this happened when and where they said it did.

    I have been sued 3 times and we have not paid out a penny yet. Touch wood.
  10. plowed

    plowed Senior Member
    Messages: 344

    Any chance that the lot had security cameras in place? If so, perhaps they have the tape that can be reviewed...
  11. pbeering

    pbeering Senior Member
    Messages: 266

    When you visit with the lawyers find out what the nature of the allegations in the suit are. Chances are you are peripheral to it. If you were the main target, you'd have been a named defendant up front.

    Do rehearse your testimony. Be prepared to introduce yourself and your experience. Write this now. Should be about 3 paragraphs.

    Do remain calm during the deposition. This is all recorded and transcribed. They will feed it to you later if you get mad.

    Do not argue with the lawyer.

    Do not become defensive.

    Do answer only what is asked.

    Do not try to help or volunteer things.

    Be prepared to discuss how snow and ice management works, but don't try to be a chemist.

    If the insurance company settles, relax. This is why you have insurance.

    Good luck.
  12. turfsolutions

    turfsolutions Junior Member
    Messages: 8

    Thanks for all the replys so far. Much appreciated.
  13. Flipper

    Flipper PlowSite.com Addict
    from CT
    Messages: 1,180

    Petes last statement is what I was trying and failed to get across. By all means show your side, just don't be surprised if the insurance company decides to settle. This is why you have insurance, and it will be out of your control, the insurance company will decide the risk of whether to go to court or settle. Remember, short term you are not paying any money.

    Like it or not, your insurance will go up because of this, not right that it should but it will. My wife got rear ended, police ticketed other driver, her insurance paid for repairs, and we still saw an increase in the premium and were bumped down to standard service for three years.
  14. T-MAN

    T-MAN PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,363

    I hate to say it but Mick is right. Fight not to settle !!! I would rather pay 2K to my personal lawyer for defense then 2K more a year for your liability.
    I am so sick of my premiums I just want to puke. My comp is so out of control I am just about pushed over the edge.
    It is all about percentages and bottom line is the insurance companys are in business to make money. When you hit there magic number for claims you will be droped. then your basically tossed too the wolfs, sure you can get coverage but good luck paying the premiums. Sure one lil settlement wont hurt right, well God forbid another one rears its ugly lil head. Food for thought .
    My 3 cents
  15. injury claim

    Did the property owner notify you of the "slip and fall" when it occured? How much lapse of time was their from the accident and the claim? Find out if the person seeked medical attention right away or later. Also find out if the person has had other injury accidents prior to the claim against you. I am a big fan of character assination...... :gunsfiring:
  16. Flipper

    Flipper PlowSite.com Addict
    from CT
    Messages: 1,180

    Unfortunately having insurance, means ultimately it is out of your control. Everything here people are telling you to do, really is the responsibility of your insurance company. Although you are the name in the suit, the person is really suing your insurance and you are the defense witness for your insurance.
  17. justme-

    justme- 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,138

    Ah, no. reread his OP Flipper. He says "I have been sued for a slip and fall from Dec 2002." HE is being sued, not the insurance company. He has insurance, a claim has been filed that's why the insurance company has provided the lawyer. I have been there on an incident unrelated to this forum. HE personally is being sued Everything people here are telling him to do he should have been told by his lawyer, and it is his responsibility as he's named in the suit.

    I suggest you contact an additional lawyer, unrelated to the insurance co for a simple consultation. Talk to them and see what they say- if they agree with the ins provided lawyer all is well, but they may not, in which case you might want to consider hiring him in addition to the ins co's provided lawyer. (looks great in court when you have 2 lawyers from different firms representing you compaired to one)

    I was sued over a traffic accident several years ago. The ins co gave me a lawyer because I was being sued. The ins paid out to the limits and they sued in addition to the limits. 4 years later (court scheduled for monday, the Thursday before the State enacted changes to the laws reguarding sueing and collecting from the ins co- Friday I am notified of the situation, fri night 5:30Pm I get the call that it's over, they released liability.) Been there. Even if you're right don;t take any chances.
  18. Flipper

    Flipper PlowSite.com Addict
    from CT
    Messages: 1,180

    He will not have to pay though, his insurance will, so therefore it is ultimately their decision.
  19. sonjaab

    sonjaab PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,425

    YOU guys wanna REALLY be scared by this liability law BS.................

    Try owning a bar....Liquor liability alone is $9000 a year in NY.
    Regular slip and fall liability is $3000 which EXCLUDES assualt and battery !
    Fire insurance is a measly $2200 for a 250k policy tho !

    My little motel in Alexandria Bay NY costs ONLY $560 a year ! (NO POOL)
    ..............geo :drinkup:
  20. justme-

    justme- 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,138

    again- no. If they sue for more that his coverage then he very well may have to pay. It's not as simple as all that I'm afraid. If they were after just the insurance he wouldn't have been named- the ins co would have been named.

    I lucked out because the state changed the law to allow insurance companies to require a release for the insured upon payment of claims retroactivly. They were served with the ultimatum of sign and drop it, have the complete and entire amount of the claim paid to them returned to the ins co ($80K+) in 24 hours, or while everyone is in court on the next Monday the Ins co would be filing a suit against them for the claim payment back plus interest.

    Noone here is qualified to actually answer him- you're laws are different from mine and from his. Only someone knowing the perticular laws and the situation can offer any real and useful knowledge.