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ARTICLE ID 155911

$________ Premises liability - Negligent maintenance of metal railing on apartment rooftop terrace - Sightless man falls 13 feet - Lumbar herniation - Laminectomy and disc removal - Lumbar fusion - Dependency on narcotic pain killers - Prosthetic eye dislodges upon fall.

Hunterdon County

The 35-year-old plaintiff contended that the defendant landlord of the rental home negligently failed to maintain the metal railing on the rooftop terrace, resulting in his falling 13 feet to the ground below. The plaintiff lost his sight in a fireworks accident approximately five years earlier and has two prosthetic eyes. The house contains two stories, with the plaintiff’s bedroom on the second floor. A door from the plaintiff’s bedroom leads to five outdoor steps up to a flat roof with a shaded gazebo, table and chairs where plaintiff often goes to smoke and have a coffee. The plaintiff related that since he is blind, he counts the metal support poles of the gazebo from the table back to the steps to determine when he has reached the stairs to the bedroom door, which is at the perimeter of the roof.

On the day of the fall, the plaintiff miscounted the gazebo supports on the way back to his bedroom. As a result, he fell over the metal rail to the ground, approximately 13 feet below. The force of the fall caused one of his prosthetic eyes to land on the ground, where it got scratched. The plaintiff had a temporary loss of consciousness.

The plaintiff’s safety engineer would have related that the roof has only a thin horizontal metal rail secured by intermittent vertical poles. The rail is approximately 28 inches off the ground, and not securely fastened to the house. The plaintiff’s expert maintained that numerous code violations were present.

The defendant maintained that the plaintiff was warned to stay off the roof. The plaintiff denied that he was so warned. The plaintiff also contended that neither the lease nor any correspondence substantiated the defendant’s claim.

Shortly after the accident, the plaintiff developed severe back and left leg and foot pain. The plaintiff underwent an MRI, which showed a bulge at L4-5. A follow-up lumbar myelogram with CT scanning showed a large disc herniation at L4-5 to the left. The plaintiff then underwent an L4-5 laminectomy and disc removal. The plaintiff became narcotic dependent to the prescribed pain killers and steroids, particularly Percocet, for which he received medical attention. The evidence would have disclosed that the plaintiff is no longer dependent, but the plaintiff would have argued that he will permanently be vulnerable to relapses.

The plaintiff maintained that after the surgery, the leg pain subsided, but his back pain became worse. The plaintiff then underwent a lumbar discography which caused severe exacerbation of pain when the L4-5 level was injected. The plaintiff then required a lumbar decompression and the insertion of hardware, including a pedicle screw and a BAK cage. The surgery also entailed the use of an allograft. The plaintiff contended that he will permanently suffer extensive back pain and weakness. During June ________, Dr. Tydings of Lawrenceville performed lumbar decompression and fusion at L4-5 with pedicle screw and bone, as well as interbody fusion utilizing a cage with bone.

Medical billing totaled over $________, reduced by Medicaid to $________, which asserted its right of reimbursement. The case settled prior to trial for $________.

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