‘+ Party In Garage + Bathroom in House = A Fall Down Stairs + Two Badly Broken Wrists + a lawsuit for failure to warn of unsafe design = $95,156 Winona County District Court jury verdict.
Plaintiff Kari Renswick presumably had a pretty good buzz on New Year’s Eve when she went from Jason Wenzel’s garage to go into his house to the bathroom. From the Minnesota Court of Appeals opinion this week, it almost seems like she was a walking pharmacopeia, after all.
On the other hand, Wenzel’s house design — a back door, a poorly lit 3′ x 3′ landing and a flight of stairs to the basement — might make for a tumble even if a house-guest is not chemically compromised.
A perfect case for a jury! Let the jury decide, as best they can, just how dangerous the house design was, just how inebriated the how guest was, and which bears greater responsibility for the injuries sustained.
And so the jury did, splitting fault 50/50. One can easily imagine the indignation of defendant/homeowners and his lawyers (more likely hired by and paid for by the homeowner’s insurer) that the plaintiff should make a recovery. Indeed, this case might be touted as an example of the need for “tort reform.”
But, on the other hand, bad lighting and bad design can take down an able-bodied person, of course and doesn’t it seem too punitive to overlook the harm from such hazards just because they befell a guest reveler?