Tennessee Court Reaffirms Individual’s Duty to Take Care for His Own Safety

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently ruled on a curious case of slip-and-fall. In the case of Petros Goumas v. Jimmy Mayse, et al., the Tennessee Court of Appeals in Knoxville found that the Trial Court correctly granted summary judgments to the defendants. The plaintiff was the fiancé of the daughter of the defendants, Jimmy Mayse and wife, Barri Mayse. Goumas was staying with his future in-laws when he slipped on a rock and broke his arm. It was daylight and dry at the time of the accident. Goumas had worked on the property before and knew where the rock was located.

Both the trial court and the court of appeals made quick work of dismissing this case on summary judgment. The court of appeals reiterated that liability in premise liability cases stem from superior knowledge of the condition of the premise. Under the circumstances of the case, the court found that plaintiff had as much knowledge of the condition of the premise as the owners. The court also restated two, long-standing principals in Tennessee. First, an individual has the duty to take care for his or her own safety. And second, negligence is not to be presumed by the mere happening of an injury or an accident.

Chief Judge Susano’s opinion does not necessarily present a novel legal precedent, but the facts of the case and the affirmation of some long-standing principals favorable to owners of property warrant some comment. Also, I can’t help but wonder whether Goumas wed the daughter of Jimmy Mayse. Sources confirm Goumas was forced to sue his future in-laws because the homeowners’ insurer denied coverage for the incident. So maybe the facts as presented do not tell the whole story. Rumor is Goumas and fiancé moved away from Tennessee to Elk River, Minnesota.