Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Customer Left Alone on Treadmill in Sears Falls Down

Sears Corporation was sued in premises liability for a fall sustained by a customer enticed to try out a treadmill.  Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer  Joseph Chaiken of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania obtained a $150,000 verdict in this fall down lawsuit of Gerben v. Sears Roebuck.

In this case, the female plaintiff, in her 60's at the time, suffered injury in a fall which occurred at the defendant's department store as an alleged result of the negligence of a store employee in leaving the plaintiff on an activated treadmill for an extended period of time. The plaintiff contended that she fell as she attempted to deactivate the treadmill. The plaintiff customer testified that a sales representative employed by the defendant Sears invited her to try out one of the floor model tread mills on display. As the plaintiff was operating the treadmill, the salesman walked away. The plaintiff testified that before the salesman walked away, she specifically asked him how to deactivate the machine. The plaintiff related that when she attempted to deactivate the machine as per the salesperson's previous instructions, the machine failed to turn off and instead, began to run faster, causing her to be thrown to the floor.

The plaintiff introduced an incident report of the accident written by the defendant's manager. The report stated that "customers should not be left alone on the treadmills." The statement was allowed into evidence as an admission by a party.

The plaintiff's treating physician testified that the plaintiff suffered epicondylitis (inflammation) of the elbow as a result of the fall, for which surgery was performed. The plaintiff's husband testified that as a result of the injuries suffered in the accident, he is now forced to perform all duties required of maintaining the household.

The defendant denied that the plaintiff was left alone on the treadmill and argued that the plaintiff was comparatively negligent in attempting to operate the equipment on her own. The defendant additionally argued that the plaintiff's complaints pre-existed the subject accident, noting that the plaintiff had been previously treated for arthritic hip problems prior to the subject fall.

The jury found the defendant 75% negligent and the plaintiff 25% comparatively negligent. The $ 150,000 gross award was molded accordingly.

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