Wheeling Park Comm'n v. Dattoli (Signed Opinion)Annotate this Case
On September 1, 2007, the Dattolis were at Oglebay Park Resort in Ohio County, when Mr. Dattoli leaned against a split rail fence after glancing at the fence to ensure that its parts were attached. As he leaned against a post and put his hand on the top rail, the end of the top rail broke into pieces causing Dattoli to fall down a hill and injure his shoulder, requiring surgery and months of physical therapy. The Dattolis brought a negligence claim and presented the testimony of Hargleroad, the Park's Director of Operations since 1990, that the fence was installed between the 1970s and the 1990s; that the Park Commission produced no documents in response to the Dattolis’ request for repair and maintenance records; that wood has a life expectancy; and that the Park was in a better position to ensure that the fence was in good repair than a Park guest. The Commission presented no witnesses. The jury awarded the Dattolis $36,894.47 in medical expenses and $19,000 in lost wages. The court later granted the Dattolis a new trial on damages for pain and suffering. The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia reversed; the Dattolis failed to establish a prima facie case of negligence, adducing no evidence that the Commission knew or should have known of the defect that allegedly caused Dattoli’s injury.