Monday, March 4, 2013

Slip On Ice In Giant Eagle Parking Lot Leads to Lawsuit Over Fractured Hip

Giant Eagle was sued back to 1982 in a Pittsburgh premises liability lawsuit titled f Hailes v. Giant Eagle.  The plaintiff in this case was well represented by Pittsburgh injury attorneys  Dennis C. Harrington and Dina G. McIntyre.  This case concerned a slip and fall on snow with claims of premises liability related to snow removal and negligent parking lot design leading to a fractured hip.

The plaintiff who was aged 57 at the time of the incident and 60 at trial, was shopping at Giant Eagle and contended that as a result of the negligent failure of Giant Eagle to clear snow and ice from the parking lot, she slipped and fell, sustaining a severely fractured hip, necessitating a partial hip replacement. The plaintiff further contended that a drainage "bump" situated in the parking area as negligently designed in that it contained excessively steep slopes and was unnecessary in view of an extensive drainage system present.

Giant Eagle pointed elsewhere and argued that any dangerous condition stemmed from the failure of its snow removal contractor to adequately plow and salt the area and named its contractor as an additional defendant. Giant Eagle settled during trial for an undisclosed sum.

The plaintiff related that almost the entire area of the parking lot was covered with ice and snow and that since she was afraid to carry her bags to her automobile, she pulled her vehicle towards the side of the supermarket and attempted to walk towards her bags while holding onto her car. She indicated that she felt an upwards incline as she fell, and it was subsequently determined that a drainage bump approximately 48 inches long, 22 in wide, and 2 1/2 inches high, which was constructed in order purpose to divert the flow of water to a drainage area, was present under the snow, causing the incline. The plaintiff's expert civil engineer maintained that the slopes of the bump were significantly greater than the recommended steepness and contended that the bump was unnecessary because of adequate alternative drainage facilities in the lot.

Giant Eagle maintained that the use of the bump was proper in that it had experienced extensive previous flooding. The plaintiff's expert countered that the flooding occurred prior to the installation of the additional drainage outlets and that the flooding could be controlled in the absence of the drainage bump. The plaintiff and an eyewitness each indicated that they observed approximately one inch of compacted snow and ice in the area.

The plaintiff further presented an expert meteorologist who related that the ground was bare as of 6 days before the incident and that there were 2 snowfalls of approximately 3 inches each during the ensuing 6 days, as well as several insignificant snowfalls. The expert maintained that based upon the amount of snow that had fallen and the estimated amount of pedestrian and vehicular traffic, the snow and ice would be compacted to approximately 1 inch during this period if no plowing occurred. The plaintiff argued, therefore, that it was highly likely that the contractor did not remove the snow during this period.

The contractor maintained that it had actually plowed the area at approximately 1:30 A.M. on the day of the incident, which occurred at approximately 9:00 P.M. and the plaintiff's expert meteorologist, noting that only .2 inches of snow fell during this period, maintained that it was obvious from the 1 inch of compacted snow and ice present at the time of the accident that if the contractor plowed the area earlier in the day, it did not accomplish the task in a proper manner.

The plaintiff's expert further indicated that based upon a relative paucity of sunlight and relatively cold temperatures immediately preceding the incident, salting would have little effect and that the minimal amount of melting snow would refreeze at night, causing hills and ridges.

 The contractor maintained that if the area was still dangerous after the completion of its work,Giant Eagle had the obligation to shovel the area itself.

The plaintiff's treating orthopedic surgeon maintained that the plaintiff sustained a severe fracture of the neck of the femur, necessitating a partial hip replacement. The physician indicated that there was an 80% chance that the replacement surgery would be required to be repeated.

The plaintiff, who was divorced many years earlier and who was employed as a supervisor of hospital employees engaged in escorting patients through the hospital and messengers bringing laboratory samples and other items to various areas of the hospital, indicated that despite the significant pain, she returned to work several months after the accident because she was forced to support her elderly and substantially blind mother and herself. She indicated that while she normally walked to the 11 or 12 nurses stations on a daily basis in the performance of her duties before the accident, she currently limits such visits to 3 or 4 stations a day. The plaintiff, who currently walks with a cane, maintained that she experiences severe pain at the end of the day.

The defendant's expert indicated that there is an approximately 75% chance that the replacement surgery will be repeated, but maintained that the plaintiff has made an excellent recovery in view of her injuries. The plaintiff, who indicated that she would have worked until age 65 if it were not for the accident, related that she currently hopes to work until she can receive social security at age 62. Her physician indicated that if further surgery is required it is likely that the plaintiff will not be able to work until she reaches the age of 62. The plaintiff's economic expert indicated that the plaintiff will probably sustain a wage loss of between $ 70,000 and in excess of $ 200,000, depending upon the age of retirement.

The jury specifically found that the drainage bump was not negligently designed, that the area was negligently maintained and found the settling supermarket 60% negligent and the contractor 40% negligent. They then awarded $ 275,000.

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