A church in a small town held a Greek festival every year. Each year, they contacted the rental store down the street to assist them with tables, chairs, linens and a dance floor. Days before the event, items were delivered by the rental store and set up, ready for the throngs of people to arrive.
Tables were covered with starched white linens and plates were lined up containing baklava, spanakopita and other homemade Greek pastries. Church tours were scheduled every couple of hours every night of the four-day festival. Dancers were scheduled to perform 30 different times over the course of event. Some groups were dancing on stages, some on dance floors and still others were in the grassy areas surrounding the fair.
During the event on the first day, raindrops began falling. As the festival came to a close, rain poured on the church grounds for several hours. Festival organizers arrived early the next morning to dry everything off and prepare for the new day’s festivities.
The group in charge of the dance troupes contacted the rental store, concerned that the rain may have compromised the wooden flooring. A rental store employee was dispatched to the event to check it out. It was determined that the floor had a soft spot, but he did not think it would be a problem. They decided to leave the floor down, but would come back the following day to see if repairs were necessary.
When the rental store employee arrived at the festival the next morning, the floor had already been pulled up by the church. A spokesperson from the church said they felt they had no choice once a dancer had fallen. This was the first the rental store knew of an injury.
One dancer was warming up and stretching in preparation for her solo dance to kick off the day’s entertainment. She noticed the dance floor was a little bit warped but decided to proceed with her performance anyway. While she was dancing, she tripped and fell on
The dance floor was built on a large grassy area. The floor consisted of several interlocking hard plastic floor squares laid atop several pieces of nailed together plywood. Several pieces of plywood buckled due to the heavy rain, causing the dance floor to become uneven.
A representative from the church spoke with the dancer just after the incident and while she had pain in her right shoulder, she thought she would be just fine. She remained at the festival that day, but felt worse upon wakening the following morning and went to the hospital emergency room.
She attended the final day of the festival, but her arm was in a sling. After that, the church had very little contact from the dancer and they were surprised several months later when they received paperwork for a lawsuit. The church and the rental store were named as co-defendants in the suit.
The suit alleged that the rental store had a duty to install the dance floor in a reasonably safe condition, so as not to cause injury to those persons using said dance floor. The suit went on to say that the rental store breached that duty in one or more of the following ways:
- By failing to install the dance floor with a level surface.
- By failing to prevent moisture from entering the dance floor.
- By failing to repair the dance floor when it became unsafe.
- By failing to warn users of an unsafe dance floor.
The suit continued by stating the rental store created a dangerous condition that caused the dancer to trip and fall on said dance floor. They claimed the dancer suffered bodily injury and resulting pain and suffering, expense of hospitalization, medical and nursing care and treatment, loss of earnings, loss of ability to earn money and aggravation of a previously existing condition, among other allegations.
During the insurance company’s investigation of the accident, a video was discovered of the dancer’s fall. It clearly showed her tripping on a warped, uneven section of the dance floor. Because both the rental store and the church knew the floor was damaged prior to the accident, they were both at fault.
All parties involved attempted to settle the claim at mediation, but were unsuccessful. At trial, the jury awarded $250,000 to the dancer. The rental store’s insurance company paid a portion of the settlement and the church was responsible for 60 percent of the total.
Mary Ann Gormly, CERP, is a loss analyst for ARA Insurance, Kansas City, Mo. For more information, call 800-821-6580 or visit ARAinsure.com.