Thursday, March 7, 2013

Great Outcome in Tough Manhole Cover Fall Down

Since I have been reviewing a lot of premises liability slip/trip and fall lawsuit outcomes in Pennyslvania I thought I would write about a great outcome recently obtained by my good friend and awesome Pittsburgh personal injury lawyer, Chris Apessos of Ainsman, Levine & Drexler.

In the case of Alegre v. Folino Construction the plaintiff and attorney Apessos had a legitimate but tough liability case.  Specifically, at about 7 am on September 25, 2010, the plaintiff was walking through a crosswalk in Bellevue when she tripped and fell on an exposed and raised manhole cover.  Before the fall, the defendant contractor had been hired by the Borough of Bellevue to remove bricks from the crosswalk and replace them with an asphalt coating.  As of the time of the fall, the defendant contractor had stripped the bricks exposing and causing to be raised from the ground the manhole cover.  This created a lip sticking up from the ground that ultimately caught the plaintiff's foot and caused her to fall.  The problem was that at the time of the fall, the defendant had not gotten around to asphalting the area such that the manhole cover was, again, flush with the ground.  It is somewhat understandable that the contractor was not able to get everything done at one.  What was unreasonable, however, was the fact that when the defendant finished pulling the bricks that exposed the manhole, they just left the condition for another day.  The defendant failed to put up any warning signs on either side of the crosswalk to alert pedestrians of the change.  Worse yet, the defendant did nothing to highlight the manhole- you often see this done with fluorescent orange spray paint.  Because of this, the raised manhole did not jump out to the plaintiff.  To her, it looked like it was still essentially flush with the ground and did not raise any additional care on her part.

As a result of her fall, the plaintiff suffered a torn meniscus and loosening of her dental implants- a pretty significant fall.

Despite the above, this is a very tough case to win.  Juries place a big burden on plaintiffs to watch where they are going.  In hindsight, jurors, like all of us, often think "well I would have seen that...why didn't she?"  And defendant's prey on this sentiment with arguments of "open or obvious" and comparative negligence that the plaintiff herself failed to exercise due care.

After a close arbitration verdict in favor of the defendant, attorney Apessos appealed the case to the Allegheny County general docket.  The case was tried two days ago in front of Judge Colville.  After hearing all the evidence, Judge Colville entered an order in favor of the plaintiff in the amount of $22,950.  Judge Colville, which seems completely fair under the circumstances all assessed that the plaintiff was 40% negligent herself.  As such, the final verdict was reduced to $13,770- a great outcome nonetheless.

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