Saturday, February 16, 2013

Fall Over Bicycle at Walmart Leads to Verdict

I am going to be examining verdicts and settlements in Pennsylvania lawsuits against corporations.  Walmart was sued for premises liability in 1999 due to a trip and fall that caused injury.  In Griffiths v. Walmart handled by attorney Michael Cook from Berenbaum & Associates, the plaintiff alleged that employees of the defendant Walmart negligently placed a bicycle behind her as she was conducting business at a counter, causing her to trip and fall.

The plaintiff, a 56-year-old female, testified that while she was busy speaking with a Walmart clerk at the courtesy counter, a bicycle was placed behind her by another Walmart employee. As the plaintiff turned to walk away from the counter she was caused to trip and fall over the bicycle. Notice was not an issue at trial, based on the plaintiff's establishing that the defendant created the condition at issue.

Evidence showed that the plaintiff sustained severe contusions of her right leg in the fall. She complained of radiating pain in the right leg and records showed her EMG results were suggestive of right radiculopathy, a type of nerve injury. The plaintiff claimed $6,000 in medical expenses she incurred as a result of treatment for her fall injuries.

The defendant maintained that the plaintiff was comparatively negligent in causing the fall. The defendant argued that the bicycle was open and obvious and that the plaintiff failed to watch where she was walking.

The jury found the defendant 100% negligent and awarded the plaintiff $ 35,000. However, a pretrial stipulation between the parties capped the plaintiff's damages at $ 25,500.

A $35,000 verdict is a great outcome for a case with a primary injury of moderate nerve injury with only $6,000 of medical bills.  Any time a plaintiff obtains a verdict in a slip and fall case let alone a verdict that exceeds the high low agreement is a terrific accomplishment.  Slip or trip and fall cases are notoriously difficult for plaintiffs to win because juries often think the matter was just an unavoidable "accident" or that the plaintiff was to blame for the incident.

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