In Baynes, on Dec. 19, 2007, the plaintiff, 54 and unemployed, was shopping with her sister at a Home Depot store in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Baynes and her sister asked the Home Depot greeter where the light bulbs were located and were directed to the opposite end of the store. Baynes turned left and walked past approximately four to five aisles before attempting to turn right into the aisle containing the light bulbs.
Baynes alleged that as she turned right into the aisle, she slipped and fell on a slippery substance, causing her to fall backward and land on the right side of her body. She claimed she did not see the substance before she slipped. She described the substance as "looking like grease." Baynes, claiming injuries, sued Home Depot for premises liability.
During the course of litigation, Home Depot was only able to produce surveillance footage that showed 48 seconds prior to Baynes' fall. According to plaintiff's counsel, Baynes retained counsel following the incident and her attorney, within 60 days of the incident, notified Home Depot that they wanted the surveillance footage of the fall. Despite multiple depositions with Home Depot employees, no one knew what happened to the footage capturing the subject incident. As a result, the court granted the plaintiff spoliation of evidence against the defendant.
Plaintiff's counsel argued that defendant knew or should have known about the substance and failed to warn or maintain the premises prior to Baynes' fall. Furthermore, there was the suggestion that Home Depot had attempted to cover up what occurred by "losing" a key portion of the video evidence.
Home Depot denied the allegations. Defense counsel argued that the plaintiff failed to adduce any competent evidence of constructive or actual notice of the condition, who or what caused it to be on the ground, or the length of time it had been there prior to the alleged incident. Counsel contended that without evidence of the foregoing, negligence on the part of defendant cannot be established.
Following the fall, Baynes was taken by ambulance to an emergency room where she was examined and released for pain in her low back and coccyx region. On Dec. 28, Baynes followed up with a pain-management physician for her low-back pain and underwent a course of physical therapy.
On March 3, 2008, Baynes, following weeks of locking pain in her right hand (wherein she was unable to naturally extend her fingers with out "clicking" and locking pain), presented to an orthopedist who administered a cortisone injection to her hand. A trigger-finger release procedure was then performed on July 27. Around this time, Baynes began to experience right shoulder pain that was later diagnosed as tendonitis in the right rotator cuff, which was treated with physical therapy and then an injection.
Baynes claimed that by April 2009, she began experiencing locking pain in her left hand that required a release procedure on May 11. Plaintiff's treating orthopedic surgeon attributed Baynes' hands and shoulder injuries to the slip and fall at the Home Depot.
Baynes testified that her condition has improved dramatically and that she only continues to experience slight pain in her hands and shoulders.
She sought to recover $19,383.61 in past medical costs, as well as damages for past and future pain and suffering. The defense orthopedic surgeon testified that given the timeline of Baynes' hand treatment (particularly her left hand), she could not have suffered a trigger finger condition as a result of the fall.
Following a bench trial, the court found in favor of the plaintiff in the amount of $44,383.61 against the defendant.
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