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Atlantic County, NJ

The plaintiff, 62 at trial, who was a nurse conducting a clinical rotation at the defendant rehabilitation hospital, contended that the defendant negligently failed to adequately treat ice and snow in the three-day period following an 18 inch snow storm. The plaintiff contended that as a result, she slipped and fell on ice as she was on a walkway in the pre-dawn hours, suffering a trimalleolar fracture. The plaintiff contended that she required a total of seven surgical interventions because of complications that included failed open reductions and internal fixations and infection. The plaintiff ultimately underwent ankle fusion surgery.

The evidence revealed that some 18 inches of snow had fallen three days earlier. The plaintiff maintained that the weather records reflected alternate thawing and freezing during this period and that it was most likely that the subject ice formed some time during the 12:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. shift, causing the incident that occurred at approximately 6:30 a.m. The defendant maintained that ice removing chemicals had been placed on the subject walkway and contended that its snow removal efforts were reasonable.

The plaintiff also contended that the maintenance records of the approximate 30 acre large property reflected that although snow and ice maintenance had been performed in the ten prior shifts, none was done during the subject shift. The plaintiff further pointed out that the prior records did not delineate the portions of the property that was treated and the plaintiff argued that the defendant’s position that the area was treated should be rejected.

The plaintiff also presented a witness who was employed by a neighboring facility who came to the plaintiff’s assistance immediately after the fall. The witness contended that he observed that no salt or other chemicals had been laid down in the area. The plaintiff pointed out that this witness did not know the plaintiff, was not employed by the defendant and contended that his testimony was particularly unbiased and should be given great weight.

The evidence also disclosed that the approximately ten minutes earlier, the plaintiff had walked over the area while heading for a neighboring building. The defendant contended that it was clear that the plaintiff failed to make adequate observations and was comparatively negligent. The plaintiff countered that it was still dark, that there were no free-standing light poles in the area and maintained that she could not have previously seen the ice.

The plaintiff’s architect also related that he used a digital level during an inspection of the area and the plaintiff maintained that the measurements reflected that in actuality, the area was bowl-shaped. The plaintiff contended that it was particularly probable that water would pool in this area and subsequently freeze when the temperature dropped. The defendant’s engineer contended that the configuration was such that water would tend to move away from the area and the defendant denied that the plaintiff’s claims should be accepted.

The plaintiff contended that she suffered a severe trimalleolar fracture and that an initial open reduction and internal fixation failed, resulting in the need for additional surgery. The plaintiff maintained that after a subsequent ORIF was successful, she suffered an additional complication of an infection, necessitating further surgery. A determination was made that an ankle fusion was necessary. The plaintiff maintained that the first two attempts failed and that although she was able to achieve anatomical alignment from the third fusion attempt, she will permanently have no movement in the ankle and need a device such as a walker or a wheelchair to ambulate.

The plaintiff maintained that she will permanently be unable to work and the plaintiff made a future lost wage claim of approximately $________ to approximately $________. The plaintiff also contended that she will incur very significant expenses from needs such as the requirement to have her home modified to accommodate her difficulties, part-time home attendant care and medical and other health care provider expenses, such as occupational and physical therapy. The plaintiff’s life care plan reflected approximately $________ in costs. The plaintiff is unmarried.The jury found the defendant ________% negligent and awarded $________.

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