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Toilet Paper Dispenser Injury Suit Moves On

By Tanya Roth, Esq. | Last updated on

Have you ever wondered why steps on a ladder are printed with instructions like, "step here" or "don't step here?" Could it be due to lawsuits like this one? A woman in Michigan has received permission from that state's supreme court to take her case of personal injury to a jury. Her hand was broken by something we don't ordinary worry about (until now, anyway): a toilet paper dispenser.

Sheri Schooley's case went all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court as the defendant tried repeatedly to dismiss it, writes the Associated Press. However, the state's highest court found there were actually real questions of negligence, risk of harm and liability that should go before a jury. The case began in 2007, when during dinner at the Texas Roadhouse, Sheri Schooley visited the restroom and the toilet paper dispenser fell onto her hand. At first she thought it was just bruised, even though she couldn't use her hand at dinner that night. She later found out the hand was broken, causing her to lose the ability to type for her job and bowl for fun.

Even now several years later, "I still cannot use the hand. I have no grip," Sheri Schooley told the AP.

So who, if anyone, is to blame for the loss of work and enjoyment Schooley is coping with? The court says the question is one that only a jury can answer. Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly wrote, "It is not for this court but rather for a jury to decide if the dispenser that harmed her constituted a dangerous condition."

The AP reports the majority of the court found there was no evidence the restaurant employees inspected the toilet paper dispensers to see if they were closed, thus possibly setting up an unreasonable risk of harm to customers.

The dissent found this ridiculous. Justice Stehpen Markman wrote that the restaurant, "apparently also had a legal duty to inspect for hazards that could not reasonably have been anticipated, such as a toilet paper dispenser opening unexpectedly."

Now the case will go back to a trial court and before a jury to decide whether the toilet paper dispenser is the next hot cup of coffee and whether we deserve to be protected from it.

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