Montgomery Premises Liability Claims With Multiple Defendants

An Alabama man has been embroiled in a personal injury claim that recently reached the state supreme court, after he was injured in a parking lot fall at his local doctor’s office.

Premise liability claims such as these can and often do involve more than one defendant. In the case of Crabtree v. BASF Building Systems, LLC, the plaintiff looked to hold responsible not just the owner of the building, but also the construction contractors who worked on the top layer of the parking deck, and the manufacturer of the top coat product used to pave the area.

Initially when he filed the complaint, the plaintiff named the doctor’s office, but included in his complaint several “fictitious” defendants. These are individuals or companies that may be connected to the injury lawsuit, but may not be identifiable at the time the claim is filed.

One of the ways in which an experienced Montgomery premise liability attorney can assist you is in helping to identify multiple defendants in a case. This is done through tireless investigation and research. Finding a lawyer who will be dedicated to your case is key.

By naming multiple defendants in a case, you submit that numerous parties were in some way responsible for the events that led to your injury and that each should be responsible to pay at least a portion of the damages you incurred as a result.

Many times, these claims are settled out-of-court. In the Crabtree case, the owner of the property, the construction firm and the contractor did settle. However, the manufacturer of the material used to coat the parking deck fought the claim.

According to court documents, Mr. Crabtree had slipped and fallen on the upper level of the parking deck while he was on site for a doctor’s appointment. As a result of that fall, he incurred multiple injuries.

In the course of the lawsuit investigation, Mr. Crabtree’s attorneys learned that the product used to coat the deck was a polyurethane product called Sonoguard. This product was made by a company called ChemRex, Inc., which was later bought out by BASF. The contention was that the product was improperly installed on the surface where Mr. Crabtree fell.

The manufacturer’s instructions expressly stipulate that the product has to be properly installed in order for the product to perform as it was intended. The process is a tedious one that requires proper preparation of the surface area, the application of a base coat layer, which has to cure before a top coat layer is applied. The amount of the top coat layer applied is based on the amount of traffic a given area is expected to receive.

The manufacturer’s instructions call for installers to do a test strip on a portion of the surface area to ensure the surface will contain enough traction in order to be slip-resistant.

The issue here was not that the product was defective, but rather that it was applied improperly. For this reason, it’s easy to understand why the construction company and contractor would be liable. The owner of the building too was reportedly aware of problems with the product as it was installed, but continued to allow patrons and workers to use this site and did not warn them of potentially dangerous conditions.

It’s a longer shot to assert liability on the part of the manufacturer – except for the fact that the manufacturer sent a worker to the construction site on a regular basis. The question here was the intended purpose of that worker. If the purpose was to oversee the work, as Mr. Crabtree alleged, then it would be fair to assert that the company fell short of its obligations to ensure the application of the product was carried out correctly.

However, if the purpose of the manufacturer’s employee on site was merely to serve as a support to the construction firm and contractor when requested, there may be less of a claim.

Ultimately, the state supreme court determined that the evidence did support Mr. Crabtree’s claim that the manufacturer had a duty to provide further assistance to the contractor or to exercise more care in warning of the conditions caused by improper installation of the surface product.

The court however did deny the company’s motion to dismiss the claim on the grounds that the statute of limitations had passed because they weren’t expressly named as a defendant on an earlier version of the lawsuit. This was an important ruling for those who bring personal injury actions against multiple defendants in Alabama because even with due diligence, it is sometimes only after intensive research that additional responsible parties are discovered.

Call Allred & Allred P.C. at 334.396.9200 to speak with a personal injury attorney today.

Additional Resources:
Crabtree v. BASF Building Systems, LLC, Dec. 30, 2013, Alabama Supreme Court
More Blog Entries:
Bell v. Dawson and Establishing Alabama Duty of Care, Dec. 26, 2013, Montgomery Premises Liability Attorney

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