THE SLIPPERY SLOPE OF FORESEEABILITY

Posted by Jacques Williams on Feb 12, 2020 4:45:00 PM

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Takeaway: An injured person’s legal remedies will often hinge on whether what happened to them was foreseeable. Should the harm have been reasonably anticipated?

Those of us who live in Morgantown were stunned recently when several massive boulders careened down one of the steep slopes along Monongahela Boulevard. A car was nearly crushed and the occupant severely injured. Another boulder landed on the tracks of the PRT injuring two of its nine occupants. This is not the first time that boulders of various sizes have come crashing down to the base of the hill and occasionally onto the highway. However, this is by far the most serious incident. At first blush, it would seem to be an incident which should have been anticipated. After all, the word “Monongahela” is derived from the Native American term for “sliding banks.” For many years concrete barriers have been strategically placed between the base of the hill and the highway berm to block boulders that would inevitably fall from time to time. Clearly, those were inadequate for what happened this past week.

As attorneys, we often think in terms of foreseeability. Foreseeability is defined “as the ability to know or foresee in advance, e.g. the reasonable anticipation that harm or injury is a likely result from certain acts or omissions,” Black’s Law Dictionary. West Virginia law follows that basic legal premise. Here, was it foreseeable to the property owner, or to others in a position to do something about this hazard, that injury would result from inaction? We can’t know this for sure until additional facts are developed. Also, the character of any legal remedy is very likely to be affected, depending on who owned property, and on who had the duty to protect the public from this hazard. In sum, many legal issues will have to be sorted out. However, it certainly seems reasonable that those affected by this calamity would want to investigate their legal remedies.

“It is the proud boast of all lovers of justice that for every wrong there is a remedy,” Gardner v. Buckeye Sav. & Loan Co., 108 W.Va. 673, 152 S.E. 530 (1930). Surely there is some remedy for three innocent passersby who were injured this past week in Morgantown, West Virginia along the sliding banks of the Monongahela River.

Hamstead, Williams & Shook, PLLC is a law firm which represent individuals and families who have suffered personal injury caused by the negligence of others. If you have any concern arising from a personal injury, the Law Office of Hamstead, Williams & Shook might be able to help! Call us today to schedule a free consultation or visit us online here.

Topics: personal injury, legal remedy