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Slip and Fall Cases

Plaintiff Fails to Recover Monetary Award in Slip and Fall Case Where No Evidence of Spill Is Provided in Support of Claim

In Dec., 2004, plaintiff, a chauffeur in her 40s, went into a bar and grille restaurant located in the Lindenwold, N.J. Shopping Center. She entered the restaurant’s front door, walked up eight or nine steps and sat by the bar. Later, as she headed out of the restaurant she slipped and fell down the steps, fracturing her ankle. She was unable to work for several weeks. Damages were stipulated at $40,000.  Plaintiff sued the establishment alleging negligence based on premises liability. She claimed that she slipped because the step or the stairway’s landing was wet with some spilled substance. The plaintiff also claimed that the area was inadequately lit; specifically, that the lights were not turned on in the vestibule at the foot on the stairs.

The defense denied liability, and moved for directed verdict at the close of trial, arguing that the plaintiff did not put forth any evidence (other than her own testimony) of a spill or other dangerous condition or that the defendant’s were on notice that there was a spill, no evidence as to how long the alleged spill was there, who spilled it, or that there was any opportunity for the defendant to remedy the alleged condition.  The insurance company for the defendant restaurant was First Jersey Casualty Insurance Co.

The case was heard in the New Jersey Superior Court, Camden County.  At the close of the trial, the Judge hearing this New Jersey accident case, ruled the matter a nonsuit so that the injured person received no monetary compensation in his New Jersey lawsuit.  Plaintiff’s counsel filed a motion to reconsider the decision, arguing that the trial court failed to consider plaintiff’s reliance upon an important slip and fall decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court.  The judge refused to reconsider the decision.

Jury Awards Woman $100,000 for Falling from Doorway Where Doorway Violated Building Code Regulations

In June, 2002, plaintiff, 59, went into a restaurant in Clark, New Jersey to buy a hamburger. When exiting the restaurant, she experienced difficulty opening the door and kept pushing until it suddenly opened, causing her to fall down and sustain injuries.

Plaintiff suffered a comminuted displaced spiral fracture of the left distal shaft and an impingement of the left shoulder. She visited her orthopedic doctor a half dozen times and underwent a physical therapy course for approximately 8 weeks. She was left with a 15 degree angulation in her left arm, creating a visible deformity and preventing her from raising her arm above her head.

Plaintiff sued the restaurant and its property owner, claiming that a 2.5 inch step-down between the exit door and the sidewalk violated the BOCA building code. She sought $7,500 for medical specials and an unspecified amount for past and future pain and suffering.  Defense counsel did not dispute the victim’s injuries; the issue at trial was whether the step-down violated the BOCA.  The defense argued that the drop was not a violation of BOCA building code.  Lloyds of London was the insurance carrier for the defendant.  The jury found for the plaintiff and awarded her $100,000, which broke down as $7,500 for past medical bills and $92,500 for past and future pain and suffering.

$400,000 Settlement for Injured Delivery Man That Claimed Stairs That Were Not up to Code

In October, 2002, Plaintiff, a deliveryman, loaded his hand truck with about 200 pounds of seafood and began descending down the steps to the defendant restaurant’s basement.  With a restaurant worker helping with the load, Plaintiff slipped on the second or third step and continued to slide down two or three more. The 200 pounds of seafood on the hand truck pushed against Plaintiff’s abdomen, causing serious injuries.

Plaintiff underwent an MRI which revealed bilateral spondylotic defects at the L5-S1 region of the lumbosacral spine. He also suffered from an annular posterior disc bulging, bilateral facet and ligamentum flavum hypertrophy with moderate stenosis of the spinal canal and lateral recesses at the L4-L5 level of the lumbar spine. In addition to the chiropractor, plaintiff treated with a neurologist for symptoms including weakness and numbness on the left side of his body.

Due to the serious injuries Plaintiff suffered, he was forced to undergo surgery for bilateral laminotomies and decompression of exiting L5 nerve root under pars defects at L4-L5. He also had a posterior lumbar interbody fusion at L5-S1 and a posterior spinal fusion at L5-S1 with a right iliac crest bone graft and the implantation of a pedicle screw for segmental fixation.  This did not totally resolve plaintiff’s serious injuries and so he had a second surgery about a year later for a reconstruction of the bilateral laminotomy, nerve root exploration at L5-S1, exploration of fusion and removal of segmental spinal hardware. Despite both surgeries, Plaintiff continued to suffer from pain and partial numbness.

Plaintiff and his wife sued the restaurant under a premises liability theory, claiming that the stairs were violated BOCA code and were negligently constructed because they were narrow and uneven.  Further, the stairs were wet and were the only available route to the basement. Plaintiff’s counsel showed that the defendant remodeled the stairs after the incident and before trial. Regardless of the improvement, plaintiff’s counsel asserted, the stairs were still defective.  Furthermore, the attorney argued, the stairs in question had not been constructed with a proper permit.  Plaintiff’s wife sued on a claim of loss of consortium.

Royal & Sun Alliance was the Insurance Company for the defendant restaurant.  They argued that Plaintiff was at fault for trying to carry too much seafood down the stairs and maintained that the water from the frozen fish caused him to slip. The defense also maintained that the stairs did not violate code and adamantly denied fixing them after the accident, claiming that the steps were in fact remodeled before the fall.

A workers compensation lien covered the plaintiff’s medical bills of $153,927.96, and he sought $102,618.64 for which he had to pay back to the carrier. He missed more than two years of work and sought past and future lost earnings of $32,168. At the time, he was making about $32,000 a year. He also sought an unspecified amount for past and future pain and suffering.  Before trial, the case settled for $400,000.

Woman Who Falls on Welcome Mat at Center Run by Municipality Can’t Prove Negligence Was “Palpably Unreasonable” and Does Not Recover Monetary Damages for Broken Hip

In May, 2005, plaintiff, a retired woman in her early 70s, tripped and fell while entering a room in a senior citizen’s center that was run as by the Borough of Fairview, a municipal entity. The center provided meals at reduced prices and organized recreational activities for the borough’s senior citizens. Near the area where Plaintiff fell, an entry mat was on the floor. Plaintiff suffered a hip fracture, for which she underwent a surgical procedure known as an open reduction with internal fixation.

Plaintiff sued the borough for negligence. She claimed that the edges of the entry mat were raised and the mat was folded over, creating a dangerous condition that caused her to fall. Her legal counsel cited an OSHA rule that required such mats to be secured to the floor with tape.  The defendant, who was self insured through the Borough of Fairview, countered that the mat wasn’t folded over, and so had not caused plaintiff to fall. The defendant also claimed that the accident was not foreseeable and that in any case the home’s conduct was not “palpably unreasonable,” which, importantly, is the threshold issue when suing a municipality under New Jersey law.

Ultimately the judge of the Bergen County Superior Court agreed with the defendant and found the plaintiff could not establish proximate cause.  The court therefore granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, dismissing the complaint, and plaintiff did not recover for her injuries.

Plaintiff Slips and Falls on Ice Covered Driveway and Receives Monetary Recovery for Bimalleolar Fracture of Ankle That Required Surgery

Plaintiff, 24, would routinely park his car in his grandparent’s driveway, stop inside the house to say hello, and then walk down the street to the train station to get to work. But in Feb. 2004 Plaintiff slipped and fell on a patch of ice while walking down the driveway.

Plaintiff suffered a severe bimalleolar-like fracture of the left ankle and was forced to undergo surgery for an open reduction and internal fixation of the broken ankle bone. He was placed in a hard cast for six weeks and missed work that period of time. He still has a plate and five screws in his ankle which has permanent limited range of motion and osteoarthritis in the joint.

Plaintiff sued his grandparents insurance carrier, Chubb Insurance Co., for negligence, alleging that a hidden condition of danger existed in the corner of driveway.  Defendants denied negligence, and argued that the condition was open and obvious and therefore there was no duty to remedy it or warn the plaintiff, who was familiar with the premises.  However, at deposition, the defendant admitted that he’d seen the icy condition approximately two hours prior to his grandson’s arrival but took no measures to remedy or warn of the condition.

The Hudson County jury found 55 percent negligence against defendants and 45 percent negligence against Plaintiff. The $175,000 award was reduced to $96,250.

Defective Steps on Dump Truck Lead to Fall and Knee Injury for Driver

In the late spring of 2002 a truck driver on the job climbed the steps on the side of his truck to inspect his load.  The steps were not factory original, they were added by a third party company.  While climbing them, the driver slipped and tore the meniscus of his knee.  He also claimed that later, the injured knee caused a fall which resulted in a torn bicep.

He sued the defendant step manufacturer in Superior Court of Bergen County.  He alleged that the steps were defective.  His attorney argued that the steps were spaced inconsistently, were too shallow, and had no anti-slip surfacing.  Further, there were no handholds or railings.  Plaintiff claimed that there were alternative reasonable designs that could have been used that would have made the steps safe.  He sought damages for the time he lost from work, as well as past and future pain and suffering.

The defendant denied liability, stating that the condition of the steps was open and obvious, and that there were no industry standards which governed the installation of the steps onto the truck.  The case settled before it could be tried, and defendant’s insurer, Sun Alliance, paid $350,000.

General Contractor Responsible for Icy Conditions Which Caused Plaintiff’s Fall

In January of 2002, a mason was working at a job site warehouse.  As he carried heavy equipment across the concrete floor, he slipped on ice and fell, seriously injuring his back.  Evidence showed that the ice was due to recent precipitation which had frozen on the floor, and that other workers had complained about the hazardous condition.

The mason suffered a severe spinal injury that necessitated a disc fusion, a surgery that he claimed did not work.  He uses a cane to walk and receives social security disability benefits due to the injury.

He filed suit against the general contractor in charge of the job site, alleging that they failed to maintain safe working conditions for its workers.  Defendants denied liability and claimed that the plaintiff, who had worked at the site all day, should have been aware of the icy conditions, and that his back problems were the result of a degenerative condition.  In addition to his claim for pain and suffering and medical expenses, he put forth evidence of a lost wage claim of up to $900,000.  Defendant’s insurer, Zurich-American, settled the case prior to trial for $700,000.

Failure of Property Manager to Clean Snow and Ice Results in Broken Ankle

During the winter of 2003, the plaintiff, a young woman, left her apartment on her way to work.  Unfortunately, the sidewalks outside her apartment were icy and she slipped and fell, fracturing her right ankle.  She filed suit against the property owners and managers, claiming that their maintenance of the facility was negligent and that they should have cleared the ice and snow or salted the sidewalks.

To make matters worse, two years later the plaintiff fell down the stairs and broke her left ankle.  Both ankle fractures required surgery to repair.  She claimed that this was caused by the instability of the other ankle from the original injury, and added the subsequent fracture to her claims.

Plaintiff bought suit in Morris County Superior Court.  She presented evidence regarding her injuries and testimony from the maintenance manager at the apartment complex.  He admitted that there was no record of anyone applying salt or removing the snow on the sidewalk, despite the fact that it had snowed nearly a week earlier.  Nevertheless, the defendants denied liability and claimed that they had in fact cleared the snow and applied salt, although they claimed they could not locate the employee responsible for doing so.  Defendants also denied that plaintiff’s second accident was related to the first.  The case was mediated twice and arbitrated and eventually settled for $577,500.

Plaintiff’s Negligence Caused Fall, Jury Decides

On the night of July 27, 2003, a young woman was at a nightclub in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  As she descended a flight of stairs she slipped and fell, injuring her back.  She claimed that there was ice and/or water on the step that created the dangerous and slippery condition which resulted in her fall.

She sued the casino owner in Atlantic County Superior Court, claiming she suffered soft-tissue injuries to her back.  She sought to recover for the time she missed from work as well as her pain and suffering.  Defendant denied liability and claimed that the fall occurred due to plaintiff’s own negligence.  The case proceeded to trial, and the jury delivered a verdict for the defense; plaintiff did not recover anything for her injuries.

Jury Doesn’t Believe Plaintiff’s Version of the Accident, Awards Nothing

Early one morning in July of 2001, before sun up, a limo driver was picking up a client from their home.  As he climbed the porch to get the client, he tripped over a flowerpot on the porch and fell, severely injuring himself.  His injuries included a broken nose and wrist; injuries which led to his early retirement (he was 63 at the time of the accident).

He sued the homeowner, alleging premises liability.  He sought recovery for his pain and suffering, medical bills, and lost wages.  He claimed that the lack of a porch light combined with the placement of the flowerpots created a hazardous condition.  However, the defendant’s found an eyewitness who testified that he saw the plaintiff at another house, and that the injury occurred there, not at the defendant’s house.  Defense also noted the lack of blood at the defendant’s house, despite the fact that the plaintiff had sustained a facial laceration as a result of the fall.  The case proceeded to trial in Essex County Superior Court, and the defense prevailed.  The jury found for the defense and awarded plaintiff nothing.

Lightswith Location at Issue in Slip and Fall Case

In the fall of 2005, a female plaintiff was in her apartment walking from her bedroom to her bathroom.  She had to descend a flight of stairs to do so, and while reaching for the light switch so that she could see, she slipped and fell down the stairs, fracturing her wrist.  The injury required surgery to repair.

She filed suit in Atlantic County Superior Court against the property owner and manager.  She claimed that the location of the light switch brought her into the “zone of danger” of falling and violated electrical codes and therefore constituted negligence.  Defendants denied liability and that the light switch placement was violative of any codes.  The jury agreed with the defendants, and plaintiff did not recover for her injury.

Plaintiff Injured By City’s Covering Up, Rather than Fixing a Leaking Pipe

On December 28, 2001, plaintiff, 36, a claims coordinator for BlueCross BlueShield, stepped off the curb on Raymond Boulevard near Penn Plaza in Newark, and she caught her foot on a metal construction plate partly covering a hole, causing her foot to fall into the hole. She was injured.

Plaintiff injured her lower back, sustaining herniated discs at L4‑5 and L5‑S1. She experienced radiating pain down her right leg with numbness and tingling. Between February 2002 and October 2006, she underwent eight surgeries. She also suffered spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease and arachonoiditis, a chronic pain condition. As a result of her injuries, she became permanently disabled. She walks unevenly with a cane and takes pain medicine through patches and a permanent morphine pump that was surgically implanted in her abdomen. The chronic pain led to depression and emotional distress, for which she underwent psychological counseling and was prescribed psychotropic medication.

For her injuries, plaintiff sued the City of Newark for negligence. She claimed that Newark knew for years that a leaking pipe was eroding the pavement but instead of repairing it, kept patching the area and covering it with a plate.

In addition to her claims for medical costs and pain and suffering, she also claimed economic losses of $1.8 million. Her husband also claimed loss of consortium.

The parties entered into an unallocated mediated settlement and resolved all of the claims for $6 million.

Postal Worker Falls on Ice While on the Job at Newark Airport

On March 9, 2003, an airport postal worker fell while placing mail on an outdoor conveyor belt at the United States Post Office Cargo Building, located at Newark Liberty International Airport, where he was employed. He’d been standing on packed ice and snow.

Plaintiff suffered a complex tear of the posterior horn of the medial meniscus, chondromalacia of the medial femoral condyle, chondromalacia of the tibial plateau and chondromalacia of the patellofemoral joint with associated synovitis.

As a result, plaintiff sued The United States Postal Service, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and other related entities for allowing the continued accumulation of ice and snow in an area in which it was foreseeable that persons would be working.

The United States Postal Service denied negligence, arguing that there was no new snow on March 9, 2003 nor on the nine preceding days. Counsel opined that plaintiff did not report the unsafe condition to anyone, and therefore bore comparative negligence.

Four months after the slip and fall, plaintiff underwent left knee arthroscopy, arthroscopic partial medial meniscectomy, chondroplasty of medial femoral condyle, chondroplasty of the medial tibial plateau, chondroplasty of the patella and sulcus articular portion of the patellofemoral joint with partial synovectomy.

A doctor testified that the surgery was causally related to the slip and fall. Plaintiff’s wife also claimed loss of her husband’s services, society, assistance and consortium.

The defense contested the damages with the testimony of their own doctor, who testified that plaintiff’s knee treatment was required by previous injuries to the knee. Plaintiff injured his knee in a subsequent work‑related accident in August 2004, and missed three weeks work. He’d suffered a knee sprain in 1990, and strains in 1992 and 2000.

The nature of the knee and other injuries was not traumatic in origin, the defense’s doctor concluded; plaintiff suffered from tricompartment osteoarthritis as a result of degenerative changes following surgery on a torn ligament more than two decades ago.

A jury disagreed, and found that the United States Postal Service negligently failed to keep its facility at Newark International Airport in a reasonably safe condition, and this failure was a proximate cause of the injury on March 9, 2003. The jury found 30 percent negligence against plaintiff, so the $100,000‑plus verdict was molded to $70,000.

Senior Fractured Arm in Fall Outside Cost Cutters Store

On Dec. 6, 2004, plaintiff an Essex County resident, 73 years old, exited the Cost Cutters in Lincoln Park and slipped on ice on the sidewalk. She fell and fractured her right arm.

Furthermore, plaintiff sustained bruises along with a displaced‑impacted fracture of the right humerus. She treated at Chilton Memorial Hospital and was placed in a sling and followed up with six weeks of physical therapy.

Plaintiff sued Cost Cutters, along with the mall manager and the property owners for negligent maintenance of the property.

Counsel argued that the defendants allowed ice and snow to accumulate and create a hazardous condition. An engineering expert determined that the defendants violated local maintenance statutes by failing to keep the sidewalk free of debris and hazards. The property owners had a duty to maintain the sidewalk and Cost Cutters had assumed responsibility for the sidewalk as soon as its own employees sprinkled salt outside the store.

All defendants denied negligence, arguing that plaintiff walked into the store without falling. She therefore bore comparative negligence for returning to an area she had already traversed and failing to avoid the slippery condition.

Defendants all asserted that Cost Cutters had assumed responsibility for the front of its store by occasionally tossing salt on the sidewalk. Cost Cutters asserted that the other three defendants bore liability for the condition, citing the lease agreement.

Plaintiff sought recovery for pain and suffering. The defense contested the injury with the report from a medical expert who found that plaintiff fully recovered from the injury.

After arbitration, the parties settled for $17,500.

Because of there being a question of liability, it settled for less than its full value, plaintiff’s counsel later said. The plaintiff knew of the conditions that she’d traversed before entering the facility.

Short Handrail, Lack of Porch Light Lead to Plaintiff’s Fall

On Aug. 27, 2001, plaintiff, a Monmouth County resident in her 60s, who was a certified nursing assistant, was visiting a friend at a multi‑family home in Monmouth County. When she walked down the stairs on the porch, she tripped and fell, hitting the sidewalk and injuring her knee.

Although plaintiff did not present to the hospital for about five days. She was diagnosed with a knee injury which required arthroscopic surgery. She later suffered from a herniated disc at L4‑5 with nerve impingement. She claimed medical costs ranging from $20,000 to $25,000.

For her injuries, plaintiff sued the property owners on a premises liability theory. Plaintiff’s construction expert testified the handrail should have extended to the bottom step. Instead, the railing only ran from the top, seventh step down to the second step, creating an unreasonably dangerous condition. Plaintiff’s attorney also argued that the porch light was not on, which also created an unreasonably dangerous condition, because it was 11:30 p.m.

The defense denied liability, contending that the stairs were an open and obvious condition. The defense argued that, despite the plaintiff’s contention, the accident occurred around 5 p.m., in broad daylight. The defense also claimed that the plaintiff tripped on the hem of her dress.

The plaintiff countered that she was not wearing a dress, but her nursing uniform, at the time of the accident.

Plaintiff sought lost wages of about $25,000. She had to take some weeks off due to her injuries, but stopped working entirely after she suffered a heart attack‑‑unrelated to her injuries‑‑about 18 months later.

The defense claimed that plaintiff’s herniation was degenerative and contended that MRI records did not indicate any impingement on her nerves in the L4‑5 area. Plaintiff’s counsel countered that the impingement could exist regardless of whether the MRI shows it on the film.

A jury found for plaintiff. As members of the community, the jury recognized that those who create dangerous conditions should not be left unpunished.  Therefore, the jury found that the defendants were 75% liable, and that plaintiff was 25% liable for her injuries. The jury determined that the plaintiff’s compensatory damages totaled $194,699, which was ultimately reduced to $146,024 to reflect the allocation of liability.

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