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When Can a Plaintiff Seek Punitive Damages in Civil Litigation?

When Can a Plaintiff Seek Punitive Damages in Civil Litigation?
In most civil litigation the plaintiff’s primary goal is often to recover compensation for the financial costs caused by the defendant’s bad behavior. Seeking reimbursement for “economic damages,” like past and future medical bills, lost wages, and property damage, is a standard part of a personal injury lawsuit. Plaintiffs often also ask for “noneconomic damages” to recover for injuries that aren’t as easily quantified: pain, suffering, and emotional distress are a few examples. In cases where a defendant has behaved especially badly, plaintiffs can sometimes ask for another category of damages: punitive damages. But what are punitive damages, and when can they be sought?

What are punitive damages?

Lawsuits can serve two distinct purposes. On the one hand, they help a plaintiff who has suffered harm to become whole again. On the other hand, they serve as a deterrent against bad behavior. Punitive damages fall squarely within this second purpose. As the name implies, punitive damages are intended to punish bad behavior by tacking on an additional financial cost on top of the economic and noneconomic damages to which the plaintiff is already entitled. The goal is to deter the defendant and others like it from doing especially bad things in the future. Punitive damages are not available in every case. Some causes of action that are defined by statute explicitly cap them or prohibit them altogether. For example, a lawsuit against government agencies or their employees cannot recover punitive damages. NRS 41.035. In most other cases punitive damages are limited by statute: $300,000 if compensatory damages are less than $100,000, or three times compensatory damages if they exceed $100,000. NRS 42.005. These caps don’t apply in cases involving products liability, bad faith by an insurer, housing discrimination, defamation, or injuries caused by hazardous materials. These exceptions offer insight into the types of behavior that the law seeks to discourage through punitive damages.

When can punitive damages be sought?

Absent a statute that explicitly provides that punitive damages may be sought, a plaintiff may seek them in cases where the defendant’s behavior that caused the plaintiff’s injuries was especially objectionable. In legal terms, punitive damages may be awarded where public policy dictates that the defendant should be used as negative example to others. Whether something violates public policy is often a question answered by a mix of judicial precedent (previous cases that have acknowledged a principle that has a policy, rather than legal, character), legislative history, and generally applicable mores. As a technical matter, punitive damages can’t be awarded unless the plaintiff has already been awarded compensatory damages. City of Reno v. Silver State Flying Serv., Inc., 84 Nev. 170, 180 (1968). In other words, they are calculated after the plaintiff’s other forms of recovery have been decided. Because punitive damages have a public policy basis, they are not always awarded to the plaintiff. The plaintiff has already been compensated, so it can be unfair or undesirable for the plaintiff to also receive a windfall that in many cases should be used for public good. Courts will sometimes order a defendant to pay punitive damages into a particular state fund or a charitable organization that goes to relieving the kind of harm that the defendant caused. For example, an insurance company that acted in bad faith may be required to contribute its punitive damages into an organization that assists consumers with insurance disputes.

GGRM works with clients in the Las Vegas area

For over 45 years the attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have represented clients in the Las Vegas area in personal injury, workers’ compensation, and other cases. If you have questions about a legal dispute in Nevada call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or request a call through our website.

Drones and Personal Injury

Drones and Personal Injury
With hobbyist drones getting cheaper all the time, more and more of them are taking to Nevada’s skies. As drones become more common, their potential for causing personal injury grows as well. A machine that’s improperly flown too low or too close to people, or that crashes into a car, can cause serious injury, especially at high speeds.

Drone operators are presumed liable for personal injuries

Someone who is injured by a drone, whether directly or indirectly, has the benefit of a burden-shifting statutory rule providing that an operator of a drone is presumed to be liable for personal injuries caused by the drone or an object dropped from it. An operator can rebut this presumption only by showing that his or her negligence was not the cause of the injury. NRS 493.060. For example, if an operator loses control of a drone and it smashes into the windshield of a car, causing the driver to lose control and crash, the operator would be legally liable for the resulting injuries unless an intervening force caused the accident. That might happen if the driver kept going despite having a drone stuck in the car’s windshield, and didn’t see a pedestrian because of the blocked view.

Nevada law restricts when and where drones can be flown

Drone operators are subject to a range of general restrictions. The general rules governing other kinds of aircraft also apply to drones, while specific rules have been adopted to address drones’ unique character. Some of the important rules are as follows:
  • A drone must be flown at sufficient altitude so that it doesn’t interfere with existing use of the land or water beneath it, and so it doesn’t pose imminent danger to persons or property.
  • Flying a drone lower than 250 feet from the ground over personal property can constitute unlawful trespass if the operator has done so before and the owner of the property has warned the operator against doing so, either in person or by posting compliant signs.
  • Drones cannot be operated within 250 feet of a “critical facility” or within five miles of an airport (unless the airport authority has given consent). Critical facilities include gas and oil processing plants, water treatment facilities, power plants, and prisons. They also include transmission lines.
  • Weapons cannot be mounted on drones. Doing so is a felony.
Most drones (other than very small ones) must be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration. In the event of an accident, the owner of a drone cannot simply “disappear” without facing penalties not only for the accident itself, but also for hit-and-run. If a drone causes injuries it’s important to take control of it to ensure that the owner can be identified. The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has served personal injury clients in the Las Vegas area for over 45 years. If you have been injured by a drone our attorneys are available to answer your questions. For a free consultation reach out to us today at 702-388-4476 or contact us through our website.

Suing Cruise Ship Operators for Personal Injury

Suing Cruise Ship Operators for Personal Injury
Even though Nevada is landlocked, many Nevadans enjoy taking ocean cruises. Like any other big venue, a cruise ship can present hazards to guests. A passenger could slip and fall on a wet deck. Passengers could get sick thanks to unhygienic conditions in the ship’s galley. Someone who suffers a serious injury that requires expensive medical care and time off work will need to work with a personal injury lawyer to overcome the challenges involved with pursuing lawsuits against a cruise line.

Liability waivers and other contract provisions complicate recovery

Cruise ships are a kind of common carrier. Common carriers owe passengers the highest duty of care to prevent injury. Many cruise lines ask their passengers to sign waivers of liability for accidents that happen in connection with different activities on the ship or during off-ship excursions that the cruise line arranges. The enforceability of a liability waiver can be a vital preliminary issue in any personal injury case. Federal maritime law restricts the applicability of liability waivers in some situations. Under 46 U.S.C. §30509, the owner or agent of a vessel transporting passengers between two ports cannot limit its liability for a passenger’s personal injury or death that results from the negligence of the owner or the owner’s employees or agents. For example, a passenger who was injured while participating in an on-ship simulated surfing attraction was able to move forward with a lawsuit despite having signed a waiver of liability specific to the attraction. Johnson v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., 448 Fed. Appx. 846 (11th Cir. 2011). But owners are allowed to disclaim damages for emotional distress, mental suffering, and psychological injury. Cruise lines may not be responsible for the actions of contractors and operators of off-ship attractions. Even though a cruise line can’t limit its liability for its own negligence, under some circumstances it may not be liable for the negligence of third parties. For example, a cruise line was not found vicariously liable for the negligence of an independent catamaran tour operator in Henderson v. Carnival Corp., 125 F. Supp. 2d 1375 (S.D. Fla. 2000). But in Smolnikar v. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., 757 F. Supp. 2d 1308 (S.D. Fla. 2011), the court allowed a lawsuit to go forward where the plaintiff alleged that the cruise line was negligent in how it selected third-party excursion operators.

Applicable law, venue, and other roadblocks

Any lawsuit against a cruise line must also contend with a host of complex legal issues. Cruises are governed by maritime law, which is a broad term covering a blend of federal, state, and even international rules. A passenger’s contract will specify which jurisdiction’s laws apply to it. Companies will often specify that they can only be sued in a particular state or, quite often, only in a foreign country. Cruise lines can also try to steer passenger disputes into arbitration, where options for recovery can be more limited. The attorneys for injured plaintiffs will need to address some or all of these issues as part of a case, often with the help of lawyers in other jurisdictions.

GGRM is here to help injured Las Vegas residents

The attorneys at the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have broad experience with personal injury cases. If you have been injured on a cruise we can help you get started with examining the complex legal questions involved in your case. For a free attorney consultation call us today at 702-388-4476 or ask us to reach out to you through our contact page.

Suing an Employer for Personal Injury in Nevada

Suing an Employer for Personal Injury in Nevada
Nevada workers who are injured at work are sometimes surprised to learn that state law prevents them from suing their employers for personal injury. Under the Nevada Industrial Insurance Act (NIIA), NRS 616A.005 et seq., an employee’s exclusive remedy for injuries at work, including death, is to file a workers’ compensation claim. NRS 616A.020. There are two exceptions where an employee may still be able to sue: cases where an employer lacks the required workers’ compensation insurance, and cases where the employer intentionally hurts an employee.

Suing an employer who lacks workers’ compensation insurance

Every employer in Nevada is required to buy workers’ compensation insurance. The exclusivity rule in NRS 616A.020 protects compliant employers by steering virtually every injury suffered by employees at work into the insurance system. Employers get the security of knowing that they can’t be sued for personal injury, while employees get the benefit of no-fault coverage for medical bills, lost wages, and other things. If an employer lacks workers’ compensation insurance, or fails to carry adequate insurance to cover an injury, the protections of NRS 616A.020 may no longer apply. Employees in this situation may want to file for benefits from the state’s The UECA serves as a safety net for injured employees by providing the same types of benefits that an employer’s insurance would provide. Because the UECA forms part of the state’s workers’ compensation system it also forecloses the possibility of filing a personal injury suit against the employer. An injured worker therefore can face a difficult choice between accepting the benefits of UECA insurance, or pursuing the potentially higher compensation available through a personal injury lawsuit. Bear in mind that lawsuits can take time and always involve a risk of failure.

Suing an employer for intentional harm

The other circumstance where an employee can sue an employer for personal injury is if the employer intentionally causes the injury. The Nevada Supreme Court has placed strict limits on when employees can use this exception to the NIAA’s exclusive remedy rule. An employee must be able to prove that the employer genuinely wanted to hurt the employee. There must be a deliberate and specific intent to injure. Conway v. Circus Casinos, Inc., 116 Nev. 870, 875 (2000). The most obvious example of intentional harm is if the employer (which might be represented by a manger) physically attacks the employee. See Barjesteh v. Faye’s Pub, 106 Nev. 120 (1990). But many kinds of intentional harm at the workplace are not so cut-and-dry. The Supreme Court has allowed a personal injury suit to go forward in a case where a fired employee was treated roughly by security guards while being removed from the employer’s property. Fanders v. Riverside Resort & Casino, Inc., 126 Nev. 543 (2010). But in that case the question of when the employer-employee relationship ended was still unsettled. In other cases where one employee attacked another, the victim was forced to pursue a workers’ compensation claim. See Cummings v. United Resort Hotels, 85 Nev. 23 (1969) (a knife attack by a mentally ill coworker fell within the scope of the NIIA) and Wood v. Safeway, Inc., 121 Nev. 724 (2005) (holding that a sexual assault at work was covered by the NIIA).

GGRM represents personal injury clients in Las Vegas

Workers who suffer serious injury on the job can feel unjustly denied compensation for wrongful behavior by a supervisor or employer. An experienced personal injury attorney can evaluate the facts of a case and determine if a personal injury suit is advisable, or if pursuing a workers’ compensation claim is the best course. The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has served the Las Vegas working community for more than 45 years and has extensive experience dealing with complex personal injury cases. For a free attorney consultation call us today at 702-388-4476, or send us a request through our site.

Marketing Defects and Personal Injury In Nevada

Marketing Defects and Personal Injury
Nevada’s products liability laws protect consumers from defective goods by allowing people who are injured by defective products to sue for damages. A products liability claim can arise from defects in a product’s design, manufacture, or marketing, or some combination of each. But what is a “marketing” defect?

When a marketing defect can arise

As the name suggests, a marketing defect occurs in the way products are presented or explained to consumers. It may have nothing to do with the product itself. Instead, the issue may be with the product’s packaging, documentation, or even advertising. For injured plaintiffs, a preliminary concern will be to identify potentially responsible parties. Each product will require a different analysis to determine who might be responsible for a marketing defect. For example:
  • Liability for inadequate instruction on the use of a factory-installed car jack probably rests with the auto manufacturer.
  • Liability for a misleading food label (“contains no nuts” when in fact it contains peanuts) might rest with a packaging firm as well as the manufacturer.
  • Liability for the incorrect statements of a salesperson might rest with the retailer.

Failure to warn of dangers

A common source of marketing-defect litigation is inadequate documentation about hidden dangers that consumers might face while using a product. In such cases, the plaintiff needs to show that the product was unreasonably safe because of the absence of adequate warnings or instruction. Nev. J.I. 7.05. For legal purposes, a product is dangerous “if it fails to perform in the manner reasonably to be expected in light of its nature and intended function.” General Elec. Co. v. Bush, 88 Nev. 360, 364 (1972). A product can be perfectly made and still be defective if it is unreasonably dangerous for it to be put into the hands of consumers without suitable warnings about its safe use. Id. at 364-65. On the other hand, a manufacturer is “entitled to assume the product will not be subjected to abnormal or unintended uses.” Van Duzer v. Shoshone Coca Cola Bottling Co., 103 Nev. 383, 385 (1987). As an example, consider a circular saw. Such a tool is undeniably dangerous in and of itself. Every circular saw on the market today carries hard-to-remove warning labels and comes with a detailed manual specifically to protect the manufacturer from marketing defect lawsuits. But it’s easy to imagine hypotheticals where things could go wrong:
  • A consumer removes the saw guard because it interferes with her work. She later suffers a serious cut. The saw’s labeling and instructions, which the consumer had put away without glancing at them, are silent about removing the guard. Arguably, the manufacturer should have anticipated that a consumer would remove the intrusive part, but it will certainly label its removal as an “unintended use” in hopes of avoiding liability.
  • Although the saw carries a warning label about the proper torque to be applied when installing a new blade, the warning is hidden behind the saw guard and is easy to miss. A consumer applies the improper amount of torque and the blade flies off, injuring someone. Was the warning label sufficient?
  • An industrial-metal band uses the saw to create loud noises in the studio. The musician using the saw develops severe carpal tunnel from “playing” the saw too much. Is this an abnormal use?
As you can see, the facts of each products liability case require careful analysis from an experienced attorney. Easy answers are rarely available in these cases, because it can be hard to find the line between proper and improper use, safe and unsafe practices, and adequate or inadequate documentation.

Consult with GGRM about your marketing defect questions

The attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez work with clients in the Las Vegas area to recover what they deserve after a serious accident or injury. We specialize in taking a personal approach with each complex case. For a no-cost attorney consultation, call us today at 702-388-4476, or ask us to call you through our contact page.

Legal Liability for Sports-Related CTE

Legal Liability for Sports-Related CTE
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, has become a focus issue for sports in general, and especially for contact sports like football and boxing. CTE is connected to repetitive brain trauma from blows to the head. It is a progressive degenerative disease, leading to serious symptoms like memory loss, depression, and dementia. CTE is usually only diagnosed after the ill person dies. For someone who is dealing with problems that are potentially related to sports-induced head trauma, pursuing a lawsuit may be an option.

Potential legal theories for CTE litigation

Litigation for sports-related head injuries can follow several different strategies. The best strategy for a given situation can only be determined by an attorney who has carefully examined the available evidence. But generally speaking, these are the most likely theories upon which a case would rest:
  • Personal injury. A sports league, whether at the professional or amateur level, owes its participants a duty to ensure that the activity is reasonably safe. Failing to do so could expose the league to a personal injury claim based in negligence. For example, a peewee football club that doesn’t take adequate care to ensure that its players’ helmets fit properly could be responsible for the consequences of resulting concussions. A league can also be responsible for not taking reasonable steps to respond to head injuries when they do occur. Personal injury suits may also be appropriate against individuals who have behaved negligently.
  • Products liability. If helmets or other safety equipment do not perform as intended, a plaintiff might have a products liability claim against the manufacturer or seller. Among other things, a products liability claim in Nevada must show that the product had a defect that made it unreasonably dangerous. Nev. J.I. 7.02. This standard may be challenging to overcome absent compelling facts. For example, helmet manufacturer Riddell is facing litigation for alleged misrepresentations in its advertising.
  • Wrongful death. Because CTE is often only recognized after the sufferer dies, the individual’s heirs or representatives may wish to bring a wrongful death suit against a league or individuals that they believe negligently caused the death of their loved one.

Challenges for CTE lawsuits

A lawsuit arising out of CTE will probably face a number of significant challenges. These are just a few examples:
  • Proving causation. For many CTE litigants a major difficulty will be proving that the specific defendant in a case was responsible for the underlying cause of the condition. Because CTE develops over time, it may have many sources. For example, a football player who began his career as a child might have difficulty establishing whether his injuries arose at the peewee level or in middle school, high school, or college.
  • Passage of time. Because CTE is a progressive disease, many years may divide the triggering injuries and diagnosis. The passage of time can render evidence unavailable and erode memories. In this regard, it doesn’t help that CTE affects memory.
  • Assumption of risk. Because CTE tends to be linked most strongly to contact sports like football, boxing, or hockey, defendants may focus on the injured player’s assumption of risk as a participant. This will probably become more prevalent as awareness grows about CTE and other head injuries. Although someone injured in the era before CTE was widely known might not have known about it, and therefore might not have been able to willingly assume the risk, the situation is arguably different today.
  • Liability waivers. Participants in amateur sports typically are asked to sign liability waivers that limit the legal responsibility of organizers and others. It’s always important to read such waivers carefully before signing them.

Consult with experienced personal injury lawyers

CTE can be a particularly devastating injury for people suffering from it and for the loved ones who care for them. Especially when CTE leads to unmanageable medical costs, litigation may offer a path to financial relief. The personal injury attorneys at GGRM have served the Las Vegas community for over 45 years. For a free attorney consultation call us today at 702-388-4476, or send us a request on our contact page.

Who Is Responsible for Unsafe Conditions Created by Contractors Working on a Home?

Who Is Responsible for Unsafe Conditions Created by Contractor Working on a Home?
Contractors working on a home often create dangerous conditions as an ordinary part of their work. A deep trench, exposed live electrical wire, or unsupervised ladder can cause serious injuries to third parties who come onto the property. In a lawsuit arising from an injury caused by these kinds of dangerous conditions, the homeowner and the contractor both may face litigation.

Nevada contractor liability

Most types of personal injury claims against a residential contractor will rest on a theory of negligence. A negligence claim argues that the contractor failed to take reasonable care to prevent the plaintiff’s injuries. The standard of reasonable care for professionals often is drawn from applicable standards. Safety standards may come from industry groups or may be imposed by federal, state, or local law. A contractor who fails to comply with statutory or regulatory safety rules can be held strictly liable for injuries that result, regardless of whether the rules violation was due to negligence. Nevada requires all contractors who work on residential projects to be licensed and bonded. A contractor license bond provides one potential source of financial compensation for someone who is injured by a contractor’s wrongful or negligent actions. Ideally, a contractor should also have liability insurance above and beyond the bond amount.

Homeowner premises liability

A Nevada homeowner owes guests a general duty of reasonable care. A homeowner owes guests a special duty to warn them of known unsafe conditions. A guest who is injured at the home can sue the homeowner, even if a contractor was responsible for the injuries. The homeowner, in turn, may bring the contractor into the lawsuit. The reasonableness of a homeowner’s actions to protect guests from harm will depend on the circumstances. Moody v. Manny’s Auto Repair, 110 Nev. 320, 333 (1994). In the case of work done by a contractor, it may not be reasonable to expect a homeowner to take steps beyond what the contractor has done to make a project site safe. After all, a homeowner usually lacks the knowledge and skill of a licensed contractor. On the other hand, a homeowner may be liable for actions taken independently of the contractor. For example, a homeowner who removes a safety warning sign may be responsible for injuries that result.

Nevada’s Residential Recovery Fund offers a source of recovery for homeowners

Licensed contractors are required to pay into the state’s Residential Recovery Fund. A homeowner who suffers damages resulting from an act or omission of a residential contractor can apply to the fund to recover up to $35,000. The amount of a homeowner’s recovery from the fund will vary depending on whether the homeowner has also recovered compensation from other sources, such as a lawsuit, settlement, or the contractor’s insurance. Making a claim to the fund also requires the homeowner to allow the Nevada State Contractors Board to pursue a claim against the contractor in lieu of the homeowner (so-called subrogation of rights). NRS 624.510.

We are here for the Las Vegas community

GGRM has represented personal injury plaintiffs in the Las Vegas area for over 45 years. If you have been injured as a consequence of a contractor’s actions, or you are a homeowner facing litigation, we can help you sort through your legal options. For a free attorney consultation, call us today at 702-388-4476, or ask us to call you through our contacts page.

When Safety Tools Don’t Work As Advertised, What Next?

When Safety Tools Don’t Work As Advertised, What Next?
We all rely on the products we use to be safe. That’s especially true of equipment designed to prevent accidents. When safety tools break, serious injury or even death can result. Nevada products liability law provides recourse to those who are injured by defective safety tools.

The elements of a strict products liability claim in Nevada

As a matter of policy, Nevada wants to protect consumers in the state from being harmed by products that are badly made, poorly designed, or inadequately labeled. One way the state protects consumers is by allowing them to bring lawsuits under the theory of strict products liability. Liability for a defective product can rest with a broad range of potential defendants, from designers and manufacturers to packagers and sellers. NRS 695E.090. Generally speaking, a plaintiff in a strict products liability case must prove five things:
  1. The defendant falls within the scope of persons responsible for the product (as a manufacturer, seller, etc.).
  2. The product had a defect that made it unreasonably dangerous.
  3. The defect was present at the time it left the defendant’s possession.
  4. The plaintiff was using the product in a way that was reasonably foreseeable by the defendant.
  5. The defect caused the plaintiff’s injury.
Fyssakis v. Kinght Equipment Corp., 108 Nev. 2012, 2014 (1992); Nev. J.I. 7.02.

The kinds of “defect” in Nevada strict products liability law

Nevada recognizes three types of defects that can support a strict products liability claim:
  • Manufacturing defects. These are problems with a product introduced at the time it was made. A manufacturing defect can be inferred from an unexpected, dangerous malfunction, such as a ladder suddenly collapsing under someone (see Krause Inc. v. Little, 117 Nev. 929, 938-39 (2001)), or a seatbelt that fails in a car accident.
  • Design defects. A manufacturer can be liable for injuries caused by a use or foreseeable misuse of a product that was not accounted for in the product’s design. Robinson v. G.G.C., Inc., 107 Nev. 135, 139 (1991). A mountain climber’s carabiner can be put to all sorts of uses, but can be dangerous if the manufacturer elects to make it from a material that’s too soft to hold a foreseeable load, like more than one person at a time.
  • Failure to warn. In a failure-to-warn case, the product defect is simply that it lacked adequate labeling or other warnings to alert consumers to the risk of injury. Rivera v. Philip Morris, 125 Nev. 185, 191 (2009). A child’s car seat is covered with warnings about its proper installation because a failure to include such instructions would inevitably lead to injuries from improperly installed seats.

Defenses to strict products liability

Once a plaintiff in a strict products liability case has established each of the elements, the defendant has relatively few defenses. Perhaps the most important feature of strict liability is that the defendant cannot avoid liability by showing that the plaintiff’s negligence contributed to the injuries. Because strict liability is not a theory of negligence, the comparative negligence of the plaintiff isn’t relevant. Young’s Mach. Co. v. Long, 100 Nev. 692, 694 (1984). Although contributory negligence is not an option, a defense can still be founded on the plaintiff’s assumption of risk or misuse of the product. Id. For example, a plaintiff who rides a motorcycle while wearing a bicycle helmet arguably has assumed the risk of head trauma.

Filing a products liability lawsuit in Nevada

A serious injury from the use of a product can be enormously disruptive. Working with a caring, attentive personal injury lawyer can relieve some of the stress of working toward compensation for medical bills and lost wages. The attorneys at the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have served the Las Vegas community for decades. For a free attorney consultation, reach out to us today at 702-388-4476, or send us a request through our site.

What to Know About Falls During Wet and Icy Weather

What to Know About Falls During Wet and Icy Weather
Rainy or freezing weather can make ordinarily safe conditions treacherous. Too often, slippery ground isn’t obvious until one’s feet are sliding away. A simple fall can cause serious injuries, involving substantial medical expenses and lost work time. People injured by falls in wet or icy weather may have the option to sue for compensation under Nevada’s premises liability laws.

Premises liability and landowner negligence

Premises liability is a variation of the general theory of negligence. In a negligence lawsuit, the injured plaintiff must establish that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care, breached that duty, and the breach caused the plaintiff’s injury. In the case of premises liability, Nevada law imposes a duty upon landowners (or other responsible occupants, like lessees) to take reasonable care that visitors on their properties are not injured by risks on the premises. Foster v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 128 Nev. 773, 777 (2012). The general duty of reasonable care extends to risks created by both natural and artificial conditions on the land. Id. at 780. In the Costco case, the Nevada Supreme Court extended landowner liability to “open and obvious” risks that the landowner has not properly addressed. Id. at 778-79.

Businesses are held to a high standard

The law distinguishes between different types of landowners. Businesses owe visitors a duty to keep their premises in reasonably safe condition for use. Sprague v. Lucky Stores, 109 Nev. 247, 250 (1993). A business can have liability for injuries caused by dangerous conditions on its property if its employees create the problem (for example, by spilling something on the floor) or if the business has actual or constructive notice of the condition (for example, if a visitor to a store spills a bottle of oil and tells an employee about it) and fails to correct the problem. Id. A homeowner who invites friends over for a visit owes visitors a lower duty of care than a business. If dangerous conditions exist, and the homeowner knows about them, he or she has a duty to warn visitors about the conditions and take steps to fix them. But a homeowner doesn’t have a business’s obligation to actively inspect for risks. A homeowner who doesn’t know about a hidden patch of ice on her front walkway might not be liable for a fall there. Someone who is injured in a fall can have their ability to recover compensation reduced if their own negligence contributed to their injuries.

Premises liability for wet and icy conditions

A landowner’s legal liability for a slip and fall heavily depends upon the specific facts of the situation. For businesses, a strong case can be made for liability if proper care hasn’t been taken to watch for and address a wet or icy condition. Bad facts for a defendant might include a failure to promptly post signs like “wet floor” warnings, not shoveling snow or salting ice, or failing to put down an anti-slip mat in a location where rain water is known to create a slippery condition. A business needs to actively ensure that wet or icy weather isn’t creating dangerous conditions. A homeowner can also wind up with liability if a known condition isn’t addressed. For example, pipes and sprinkler systems often freeze and break during cold weather, leading to leaks that can create ice across walkways. If the homeowner knows (or should know) about the dangerous condition, he or she needs to take steps to get rid of the ice or at least post a warning.

Don’t hesitate to talk to a personal injury lawyer about slip and fall accidents

The GGRM law firm has represented injured Las Vegas residents for over 45 years. If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident and would like to speak to a lawyer about your legal options, call us today for a free consultation at 702-388-4476, or reach us through our contact page.

Injury Liability in the Gig Economy

Injury Liability in the Gig Economy
The rise of the gig economy has changed the nature of work for many people. Thanks to websites that connect freelancers and clients, doing odd jobs can be a consistent source of income or even become a full-time career. A gig might involve walking someone’s dog, helping to move a piece of furniture, or doing some yard work. Like any other physical work, these kinds of tasks involve an element of injury risk. This risk raises important legal questions for people who work in the gig economy, and the people who hire them.

Workers in the gig economy are independent contractors

Someone who does odd jobs on a freelance basis is most likely an independent contractor. This means that the client who hires them is not responsible to them as an employer. In an employer-employee relationship, the employer is responsible for providing the employee with workers’ compensation insurance coverage, among other things. Independent contractors often don’t get these protections. For workers’ compensation purposes, Nevada law excludes people from the definition of “employee” if their work “is both casual and not in the course of the trade . . . of his or her employer.” NRS 616A.110(1). The law also excludes people who perform household domestic services, NRS 616A.110(4), which has been interpreted to include contractors like insect exterminators. See Seput v. Lacayo, 122 Nev. 499 (2006). Freelancers should bear in mind that they are independent contractors even if they get work through a facilitating website like TaskRabbit.com. Such websites require users to agree to terms of service that invariably provide that freelancers who use the sites are independent contractors, not employees of the companies running the sites. Therefore the website owners aren’t obligated to provide insurance coverage to freelancers, either. Bear in mind that this discussion is about odd-jobs completed for non-business clients. Businesses have different obligations toward those they hire, even for short-term work. The Nevada Division of Industrial Relations provides a useful reference for independent contractors who work for businesses.

Personal liability of freelancers and their clients

For a freelancer who is injured doing a job, the only recourse may be to sue the person who hired them, or another person who created the conditions that led to the injury. Freelancers should bear in mind that they also can face liability for damaging a client’s property or hurting clients themselves. For most types of personal injury, the question of liability will rest on whether the responsible party was negligent, and whether the injured person’s negligence contributed to the injury. Here are a couple examples. Example 1: Joe the Dog Walker
Joe works as a freelance dog walker to earn supplemental income, advertising his services on Craigslist. One day Joe accepts a job walking a neighborhood pit bull named Gus. Although Gus is ordinarily friendly and mild, Joe discovers too late that he becomes aggressive around small dogs. On their first walk together they encounter another pedestrian walking a Pomeranian. Joe doesn’t avoid the encounter and Gus ends up biting the Pomeranian, and Joe gets bitten trying to intervene. Here the owner of the Pomeranian may sue Joe as well as Gus’s owner. Joe might sue Gus’s owner as well, for failing to warn him about Gus’s aggressive tendencies.
Example 2: Mary the Mover
Mary takes odd jobs through TaskRabbit as a furniture mover. Relying on her physical fitness, she takes no special precautions to protect her back or joints. While moving a heavy sofa bed for an individual client she suffers a herniated disk that makes it impossible for her to keep going to her day job. Mary sues the client to recover from the client’s homeowner policy, but she can expect the insurance company to use her failure to use a back brace as a significant contributing factor in her injury.
Perhaps the overarching lesson in these two fact patterns is that freelancers need to take steps to protect themselves. One way to do that might be through the use of contracts that limit the freelancer’s liability or give the client specific obligations. For example, Joe the dog walker might ask each client to sign a simple document that puts the client on the hook for any injuries the dog causes.

Freelancers who are injured on the job need to consult with an attorney

Generally speaking, jobs found in the gig economy don’t pay well enough to compensate freelancers for serious injuries. In any personal injury situation it’s important to talk to an attorney to preserve every potential recourse. The personal injury lawyers at GGRM are happy to help freelancers in the Las Vegas area think through their legal options. For a free consultation call us today at 702-388-4476, or send us a request through our site.