Placing blame is easy, finding fault is not

The legal basis for any civil lawsuit is the answer to the question of “who is at fault.” While that may certainly seem to be a simple question, it is in finding the answer where civil law has rightfully earned its reputation for complexity.

A recent lawsuit filed against a casino in Oxon Hill, Maryland is a perfect example of the intricacy of fault. The facts of the case are relatively straightforward: a young girl swinging on a handrail at the casino received an electrical shock and debilitating injuries. Her family just last month filed a lawsuit claiming that the casino was at fault. But was it?

What is fault?

In order to be at fault, a person or entity — in this case the casino — must have caused the initial injury, through an action or a failure to act despite a duty to do so. However, in this example, one would have to go back to the initial construction of the resort to find a definitive answer. When it comes to a construction project of that size, designating one single responsible party can be exceedingly difficult.

In construction, every project starts with plans, land and money, but from there you have a complex chain of responsibility that can be organized into the following categories:

  • Owners
  • Architects
  • General Contractors
  • Subcontractors
  • Suppliers

Some would argue that any accident is the responsibility of the owner. However, that argument fails to recognize the complex liability and fault arrangements built into a project of significant size. To discover the likelihood that a specific action was the fault of the property owner one would have to know the exact nature of the problem and backtrack through all the various offshoots on the chain of responsibility and liability to make a determination of “fault.”

Fault is complex and should not be taken as a given

No one would argue that a child injured by an electrical accident isn’t tragic. However, when an accident happens, it is important to evaluate where the law assigns responsibility and liability. Should you have any questions on construction litigation topics, please contact us using the email or telephone contacts found on our website at

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