Miles v. DelMonico
A plaintiff who alleges a premises defect may be required to prove that the defendant owner possessed actual or constructive notice of the alleged defect. On July 2, 2007, the plaintiff police officer, Jeanette Miles, allegedly was walking down the stairs that were attached to the deck of the defendant's home, when the exterior stairs allegedly collapsed or moved. Miles sued. At trial, the defendant homeowner, Anthony DelMonico, testified that he did not build the stairs, did not observe any movement in the stairs and did not receive any complaints about the stairs. The defendant moved for a directed verdict, and the court reserved its decision. A jury awarded the plaintiff police officer damages in the amount of $458,511. The defendant homeowner moved to set aside the plaintiff's verdict. "[A] trial court may set aside a verdict on a finding that the verdict is manifestly unjust because the jury, on the basis of the evidence presented, mistakenly applied a legal principle or because there is no evidence to which the legal principles of the case can be applied," pursuant to Tomick v. United Parcel Service Inc., a 2012 decision of the Connecticut Appellate Court. The plaintiff police officer possessed the burden to prove that the defendant homeowner received notice of the alleged defect. The court found that there was no evidence that the defendant possessed actual or constructive notice that the stairs were not attached to the deck, as alleged. The fact that the defendant owned the subject property was not evidence that he knew that the stairs allegedly were not attached to the deck. "In the absence of any evidence that the defendant had actual notice or reason to know of the alleged defect, and in the absence of any evidence that there was a defect," wrote the court, "the plaintiff has failed to meet her burden of proof." The court granted the defendant's motions for a directed verdict and to set aside the verdict.