When a Night of Dancing Fell Flat at the Star Bar

The SE Texas Record Feb. 4, 2011, 5:42am

How many editorials have been written challenging the legitimacy of slip-and-fall lawsuits.

Hundreds, actually. Thousands even. Maybe more. In fact, if slip-and-fall lawsuits were an energy source, the United States would go green tomorrow.

Forget wind and solar and biomass. We've got tort power. It's here and it's now.

Don't get us wrong. It's not that honest, well-coordinated, and attentive people don't sometimes slip and fall -- through no fault of their own -- and subsequently seek redress against the person or persons whose negligence was responsible. It's just that some slip-and-fall lawsuits seem to have been filed by plaintiffs seeking jackpot justice with the help of a wink-and-nod member of the profession.

You can't always tell, of course, whether a complaint is legitimate or not -- and that's what's counted on. Finding out the facts can be expensive and too often settlements are made because it is cheaper for the defendant than going to trial.

Take the recent lawsuit filing of Kathryn Gober. On March 21, 2009, her suit alleges she fell flat on her face as she left the dance floor at the Star Bar on Crockett Street in Beaumont.

On Jan. 28 of this year--almost two years later--she filed suit against the bar's owners in Jefferson Count District Court, complaining that she "tripped and fell over an unlighted, darkly painted, unmarked raised bandstand adjacent to the dance floor in what would be assumed to be a normal walkway."

Several questions arise. How long had Gober been at Star Bar? By what logic did Gober expect a bar to be brightly lit? Why didn't Gober trip over the "unmarked, raised bandstand" as she approached the dance floor?

If Gober was the only person to trip and fall over the "unmarked, raised bandstand," how did others avoid the hazard? Why did Gober wait so long before filing a lawsuit, thus reducing the likelihood of defense witnesses being available. Why is she seeking "exemplary damages"?

It's hard not to be skeptical when so many questions go unanswered.

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