The plaintiff in this action was a wheelchair-bound 68-year-old man who was shopping in the defendant's Home Depot store when a cart of wood fell over and knocked him from his wheelchair. The plaintiff alleged that Home Depot was negligent in placing the wood cart in the center of an aisle and in failing to offer assistance to the handicapped plaintiff. The defendant maintained that the cart was not dangerous and was caused to tip over when it was struck by the plaintiff.
The plaintiff testified that he went to the defendant's home improvement store to purchase wood because he and his nephew were constructing an archway for his home. The plaintiff is confined to a wheelchair due to childhood polio where one leg has been fused and is required to be extended straight in front of him. The plaintiff testified that none of the defendant's store employees offered to assist him.
The plaintiff testified that he was looking at scraps of wood contained on a cart in the center of an aisle. He testified that he turned his chair to look for store assistance when his extended foot struck the wood cart. The cart tipped over spilling wood onto the plaintiff and causing his wheelchair to flip backward, according to the plaintiff's testimony. The plaintiff testified someone lifted his wheelchair back onto its wheels while he was still in the chair.
The plaintiff's neurologist testified the plaintiff sustained a closed head injury when the back of his head struck the floor. He was taken to the emergency room where he was diagnosed with a concussion and subdural hematoma. The plaintiff was discharged from the hospital and returned later that night with complaints of continuing headaches. The plaintiff was discharged from the hospital a second time, as physicians believed the hematoma was improving and would resolve. However, several days later, when paratransit personnel arrived at the plaintiffs home to transport him to dialysis treatment, the plaintiff was found unconscious. He was taken to the hospital in a comatose state, was resuscitated, placed on a ventilator and admitted to the hospital's neurosurgical intensive care unit.
The plaintiff underwent evacuation of the subdural hematoma involving drilling a hole through his skull. When the first procedure was not successful, the plaintiff underwent a craniotomy and installation of a drainage catheter. The plaintiff remained in the hospital for 30 days.
The plaintiff complained of continuing post-traumatic headaches which his neurologist attributed to the head injury sustained. The plaintiff, a widower who is raising an 11-year-old son, contended that he is no longer able to engage in activities with his son. The plaintiff's cousin testified she grew up with the plaintiff and was of the opinion that he has not been the same person since the date of the accident. The plaintiff was not employed due to his preexisting disability.
The defendant argued that the wood cart was used for the wood cut remains left by other customers and was not dangerous. The defense maintained that the cart was caused to tip over when the plaintiff himself struck it. One of the defendant's employees testified that he did not see the plaintiff fall, but heard the noise. This witness testified he turned around and saw that the plaintiff had rolled out of his wheelchair and the plaintiff got up and indicated he was "O.K." The employee testified he picked up the plaintiff's wheelchair and the plaintiff then got back into the chair.
The jury found the defendant 86% negligent and the plaintiff 14% comparatively negligent. However, the jury found the plaintiff's negligence was not a substantial factor in bringing about his harm. They then rendered a gross award of $ 1,100,000. Post-trial motions are pending. Share this post :