Sunday, March 10, 2013

Fall Over Concrete at Renovated Target Store Leads to Verdict

A Pennsylvania Target Store was the originating site of premises liability lawsuit resulting in a sizable verdict.  In the matter of McCune v. Irwin & Leighton, Co., the plaintiff was expertly represented by Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer Brandon Swartz of top tier Philadelphia law firm, Swartz Culleton

This case arose in the course of Plaintiff's work when he was delivering rubbish containers to a Philadelphia construction site.  During his work, he exited his truck and tripped and fell over a chunk of cement. The plaintiff brought suit against the general contractor and a demolition subcontractor working on a construction project at the site. The defendant general contractor argued that the cement did not constitute a dangerous condition, the plaintiff was comparatively negligent and that it was not responsible for the cement being in the area of the plaintiff's fall.

At the time of the incident, the defendants were working on a project to renovate a Target Store in Philadelphia. The rubbish containers were delivered to a staging area which was designated for that purpose. The plaintiff testified that he pulled his truck into the staging area, opened the door, stepped out and fell over a piece of concrete. The concrete chunk was approximately 6" x 6".  Testimony established that the defendant general contractor had sole responsibility for calling the plaintiff's employer and requesting delivery of the rubbish containers. The plaintiff argued that the defendant general contractor breached its duty to make sure that the staging area was safe prior to calling for the delivery.

The plaintiff called a civil engineer who testified that the plaintiff's position, approximately four feet from the ground in the cab of the truck, precluded him from seeing the construction debris which was under his door. This expert contended that the plaintiff's field of vision was such that the obstacle would not have been visible to him as he exited his truck.

The plaintiff, age 52 at the time, was diagnosed with a ligament tear as a result of the fall. He underwent surgery to repair the ligament and complained of continuing ankle pain and difficulty ambulating. The plaintiff's orthopedic surgeon opined that a future ankle fusion or ankle replacement was possible.
At the time of trial the plaintiff had not returned to work due to the injury. The plaintiff's vocational expert testified that the plaintiff could not return to his former position and is permanently limited to sedentary employment. As a result, the plaintiff claimed a diminished future earning capacity as a result of the ankle injury.

The defendant general contractor maintained that it was not responsible for the condition which caused the plaintiff's fall and the plaintiff could not establish where the piece of concrete had come from or how long it had been in the dumpster staging area. The defense argued that the subcontractor demolition company was performing demolition work and the chunk of concrete at issue was obviously a part of the old section of the building which had been demolished. The defense also contended that the large chunk of concrete was open and obvious and should have been noticed and avoided by the plaintiff when he drove into the staging area.

After a four day trial, the jury found the defendant general contractor 90% negligent and the plaintiff 10% comparatively negligent. The defendant subcontractor was found not negligent. The plaintiff was awarded $825,000 in damages and his wife was awarded $10,000 for her loss of consortium, for a total verdict of $ 835,000, reduced accordingly.

This was a great outcome for the plaintiff given the facts of the case.  Congrats to the plaintiff and attorney Swartz for a great outcome.

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