Insurer on the Hook for Girlfriend’s Office Fall

     (CN) – A woman who tripped and fell at her boyfriend’s office can seek damages because she conducted business during the visit, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled.
     Faye Ainsworth had been dating Charles Chandler for six years when she visited his business, Chandler Electric, one day in 2009.
     Ainsworth said she was there for “just a visit,” and Chandler agreed that she was there “because I was dating her.”
     As they were leaving the office, Ainsworth tripped on a coil of wires. She claims the injury caused partial blindness, a sprained ankle and a fractured tooth.
     Ainsworth sued Chandler for $2 million in 2010, but she also married him that year. Chandler admitted liability and sued Concord Group Insurance Co. four months before Ainsworth sued him.
     Concord denied that it was liable, claiming that Ainsworth’s visit to Chandler was a social call.
     A judge in Windham agreed and ruled against Ainsworth, but the Vermont Supreme Court reversed last month, despite acknowledging that Ainsworth was at Chandler Electric “just to visit” her boyfriend.
     “However, plaintiff also indicated in response to insurer’s motion for summary judgment that she was a customer of defendant’s business, and she produced a receipt showing that she had bought three smoke detectors that day,” Chief Justice Paul Reiber wrote for the court.
     A jury could find that Chandler should have warned his girlfriend about the hazard, according to the ruling.
     “Given plaintiff’s deposition testimony that she did not see the wire in the stairs before she tripped, and defendant’s admissions that the area was poorly lit, covered in debris and unsecured, a reasonable jury could conclude that the danger was not open and obvious or that defendant should have foreseen the harm even if it was obvious,” Reiber added.
     Ainsworth and Chandler are no longer married to each other.

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