Monday, February 18, 2013

Fall on Soap on Floor of Walmart Reinjures Woman's Back

I am going to discuss the facts of a couple more Walmart slip and fall lawsuits filed in Pennsylvania in the past few years.  The next slip and fall negligence claim against Walmart that caused aggravation of a pre-existing lumbar condition was the matter of Frey v. Wal-Mart.  This matter was tried by Pennsylvania attorney Gerald Strubinger of Strubinger Law Offices in Palmerton, PA.

The facts were that the female plaintiff in this action was 54 years old when she claimed she slipped and fell as a result of liquid soap on the floor of the defendant's Wal-Mart store. The defendant maintained that it had no notice of the condition and that the plaintiff failed to watch where she was walking.  This is the defense we see in pretty much every fall down case in Pennsylvania.  It wasn't our fault that there was soap on the floor of the sporting goods area, it was your fault for not avoiding it.

The plaintiff alleged that she was walking in the sporting goods section of the defendant's store when she slipped and fell on what she later discovered to be liquid soap on the floor. The plaintiff had undergone two prior lumbar surgeries. Her treating physician testified that the fall aggravated the plaintiff's preexisting back condition.

The plaintiff complained of pain and numbness in both legs and constant back pain stemming from the fall, and her physician testified that her EMG results were positive for a lumbar nerve impingement. The plaintiff claimed she was required to miss six months of work following the accident for a total of $ 9,000 in past loss of wages. The plaintiff also claimed $ 6,000 in past medical expenses, $ 55,000 in future medical expenses and $ 75,000 in loss of future earning capacity.

The defendant argued that the store is checked on a regular basis and it had no notice of the soap spill. The defense maintained that spills are cleaned promptly when discovered. The defendant additionally contended that the spill was open and obvious and should have been avoided by the plaintiff. The defendant's orthopedic surgeon testified that the plaintiff's complaints stemmed from her preexisting condition and were not causally related to the subject fall.  This is another damages mitigating defense we see in every slip and fall case.  You had a preexisting condition that is causing your problems.  Your fall on your back did nothing to change what was already there.

The jury found the defendant 85% negligent and the plaintiff 15% comparatively negligent. The plaintiff was awarded $ 50,000, which was reduced accordingly.

I am curious how the jury came up with $50,000 of compensation in light of the damages that were claimed.  There were $15,000 boardable special damages for lost wages and past medical bills.  This leaves another $35,000 to account for everything else.  I am guessing the jury opted to give some round number over top of the specials.  This is still a decent outcome for this case, at least depending on what the pre-trial offer was.

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