Personal Injury: Are Those Terrible College Showers The Cause?
Often people joke that the showers in college were so bad that they hurt…well if you intend to make the joke a reality and file a civil action in Massachusetts against your college seeking damages for negligent showers you better have evidence to prove causation as the Plaintiff learned in Caffarella v. Bentley University, et al., a recent Middlesex Superior Court case.
The Plaintiff, Ms. Caffarella was a student at Bentley University. One day, Ms. Caffarella was not feeling well. Late in the afternoon, she went to the women’s bathroom on the third floor of her residence hall to take a shower. While in the shower, Ms. Caffarella became dizzy and sat down on the floor facing the wall that had a shower caddy installed. Without changing directions, Ms. Caffarella stood up, lost consciousness, and fell, injuring her left eye and forehead. She had no memory of how she suffered her injuries and there were no witnesses to her fall.
In September, 2012, Ms. Caffarella filed a civil action in Middlesex Superior Court alleging that Bentley and its Co-Defendants negligently installed or maintained the shower caddy, which encumbered the usable space of the shower. She also claimed that when she fell, the shower caddy lacerated her face.
Bentley and the Co-Defendants moved for summary judgment arguing that there is no genuine issue of material fact as to the cause of Ms. Caffarella’s injuries because she asserted insufficient evidence. The Plaintiff argued that the Defendants’ motion should be denied because she recalls falling straight forward in the direction of the shower caddy without twisting or turning her body in any way. In addition, Ms. Caffarella’s doctor opined that the shower caddy could have caused her injuries.
The Court disagreed with the Plaintiff and allowed the Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment. In issuing its decision, the Court pointed out that the Plaintiff’s burden “cannot be proven only through surmise and conjecture.” There was evidence in the record that the cause of the injuries may have well been the on/off water knob, which had blood on it when the police arrived, and which the Plaintiff noted as the probable cause of her injury to her doctor. Therefore, the Court held: “Ms. Caffarella cannot provide sufficient direct evidence or establish facts which would allow a rational fact-finder to make an inference of probability that the shower caddy was more likely than not the cause of the injury.” The Court dismissed the Plaintiff’s claims.
The Caffarella case stands as a reminder to tort Plaintiffs with dreams of large judgments that claims cannot be simply supported by conclusions, assumptions and conjecture. While tort Plaintiffs are not bound to exclude every other possibility of cause for their injuries except that of the negligence of the Defendants, they are required to show by evidence of a greater likelihood that the injuries came from an act of negligence for which the Defendants are responsible than from a cause for which the Defendants are not liable.
Contact Attorney Mucci if you have been injured and want a no nonsense evaluation of your claims and potential personal injury case.