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Philadelphia County, PA

The plaintiff was a female in her 30s who was crossing Moravian Street in Philadelphia in a pedestrian crosswalk when she claimed that she slipped and fell as a result of black ice in the crosswalk. The plaintiff brought suit against the City of Philadelphia which maintained the street, as well as the Latham Hotel located on 17th Street with a side entrance on Moravian Street. The defendant City of Philadelphia settled the plaintiff’s claims under a joint-tortfeasor’s release prior to trial, but remained in the case on cross-claim asserted by the co-defendant hotel. The plaintiff alleged that an employee of the defendant Latham Hotel negligently used an outside hose on the cold December, ________, day in question and created the dangerous, slippery condition which caused the plaintiff’s fall. The defendant Latham Hotel denied that its employee used a hose that day and maintained that the icy condition was caused by the city’s failure to ensure adequate water drainage at the location. Several other defendants, including an adjoining property owner and alleged operator of the hotel restaurant, were dismissed prior to trial.

The plaintiff testified that, at the time of her fall, she noticed a uniformed hotel employee squirting a water hose nearby. The plaintiff claimed that the water from the hose ran into the crosswalk, froze and created the icy condition which caused her fall.

Evidence showed that one of the defendant hotel’s discretionary housecleaning chores included pressure washing the outside dumpster area. The defendant hotel’s side door was located some 20 to 30 feet from the side of Moravian Street and photographs depicted a hose hookup in the hallway just inside the hotel’s entrance.

In addition, the plaintiff called a witness, a man who operated a shoeshine/repair business on the other side of Moravian Street. This witness described the uniform worn by the man using the hose on the day in question and testified that he recognized the individual as an employee of the defendant hotel. The plaintiff also argued that a picture of the uniform worn by a hotel employee matched the uniform description given by the witness.

The plaintiff was diagnosed with a trimalleolar ankle fracture as a result of the fall. She underwent open reduction and internal fixation with orthopedic plate and screws. A second surgery was performed to remove one of the orthopedic screws. The plaintiff’s orthopedic surgeon testified that the plaintiff may possibly require surgical removal of additional hardware in the future.

The plaintiff was a community college student at the time of the fall. She testified that she was taking courses which would allow her to apply for nursing school. The plaintiff returned to school in the psychology field and claimed that her ankle injury precluded her from pursuing a career in nursing. The plaintiff’s vocational expert opined that the plaintiff sustained a loss of future earnings of $________ to $________ per year as a result of the injury. The plaintiff, a single mother, testified that her ankle injury also made it difficult for her to care for and interact with her two minor children.

One of the defendant hotel’s housekeeping department employees testified that employees never pressure washed the outside area during the winter months. On cross-examination, it was elicited that this employee was working on the 14th floor of the hotel in the laundry room on the day of the plaintiff’s fall and did not see what was taking place in the street below.

The defendant introduced photographs, taken by the plaintiff’s investigator within a month of the plaintiff’s fall, which the defendant argued established that there were drainage problems in the area.

The defense also argued that there were many restaurants with entrances onto Moravian Street and that any one of them could have been using an outside hose on the day of the plaintiff’s fall.

On damages, the defense contended that the plaintiff had made a good recovery from her ankle fracture. The defendant additionally argued that the plaintiff’s claims for loss of future wages as a nurse were speculative in light of the fact that she was never in a nursing program.

The jury found the defendant hotel ________% negligent and awarded the plaintiff $________ in damages.

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