Tort Law

Death caused by fall on display case wasn't reasonably foreseeable, appeals court rules

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Fatal injuries caused when a woman fainted and fell on a display case were not reasonably foreseeable, a Tennessee appeals court has ruled.

In a decision (PDF) on Monday, the Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Knoxville affirmed dismissal of the premises liability suit, the Legal Profession Blog reports.

The woman, Carol Singletary, was visiting a retail store in Gatlinburg when she fainted and fell into the display case. A triangular shard of glass pierced her chest and lacerated her aortic arch, causing her death.

Singletary’s husband, Cooper Singletary, had claimed his wife’s death was caused by the fragile glass of the antique display case and the store’s narrow or cluttered aisles.

The defendants countered in depositions and affidavits that the glass display case had “withstood collisions from baby carriages, children leaning against and pushing on it, and an impact from a ‘purse the size of a refrigerator,’ ” the appeals court said. The display case was about 30 years old when purchased in 1981 or 1982.

The appeals court said the plaintiff had admitted that nothing about the store caused his wife’s fall. And the evidence showed the store owner had no expectation the glass would break, the court said.

“While we are sympathetic to plaintiff for the tragic loss of his wife,” the appeals court said, “we must agree with the trial court that the incident was not a reasonably foreseeable probability. No duty existed. Consequently, there is no negligence and no liability.”

Carol and Cooper Singletary had been high school sweethearts who married the year before the accident, according to the Johnson City Press. She had passed up a “substantial offer” to play college basketball after helping her high school win state basketball titles in 2011 and 2012, the article says. Instead she moved to Gatlinburg to start a cellphone accessory business.

At her funeral, Cooper Singletary said his wife had complained of headaches and pain in her back and neck in the days before she collapsed at the store.

The case is Singletary v. Gatlinburlier Inc.

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