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Essex County

The plaintiff contended that as she descended a long portion of the stairway, it turned in a 90 degree angle with two steps situated before the next landing. The plaintiff maintained that the stairway was negligently constructed because of the absence of a handrail on one side and that the danger was heightened because a desk at the bottom of the stairway partially obstructed access to the landing on the side which contained the handrail.

The plaintiff contended that as a result, she did not use the handrail and fell upon losing her balance, suffering knee injures. The hospital was constructed before any applicable codes were enacted and no evidence of code violations could be submitted to the jury. The evidence disclosed that an identical stairway was on the other side of the room and that they both reached the landing in question and that approximately seven feet separated the two stairway endings. The defendant contended through the testimony of a hospital guard who witnessed the fall that the plaintiff had walked down the other stairway, that there was no desk at the bottom of this stairway that impeded the use of the handrail, and that that the incident was not related to any alleged negligence on the defendant hospital’s part. The defendant’s expert engineer contended that stairway in question was safe. The defendant also contended that the dynamics of the fall as described during different portions of the plaintiff’s testimony were inconsistent with each other and that portions supported the inference that she fell in a direction that was consistent with the defendants’ theory. The jury found for the defendant. Pearson vs. St. Michael’s Medical Center. Docket no.

W-________-88; Judge Edward Neagle, 9-4-91. Attorney for plaintiff Thomas Irwin; Attorney for defendant: Patrick J. Hughes of Connell, Foley & Geiser. Plaintiff’s expert engineer: Herman Steenstra from Midland Park. Defendant expert’s: Seymour Bodner from Livingston.

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