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ARTICLE ID 198068

$________ GROSS REDUCED BY 20% COMPARATIVE NEGLIGENCE PREMISES LIABILITY – FALL DOWN – SLIP AND FALL ON LIQUID SPILLED IN FRONT OF STEPS AS ELDERLY PLAINTIFF IS EXITING DEFENDANT SUB SHOP – ANKLE FRACTURE – OPEN REDUCTION INTERNAL FIXATION – SURGICAL HARDWARE INSTALLATION – SEVERE PAIN UPON WALKING – LACERATION TO BACK OF HEAD.

Middlesex County, NJ

The female 72 year-old plaintiff contended that as she exited the defendant sandwich shop, she slipped and fell on a clear liquid at the top of the steps near the exit. She did not see the liquid prior to falling, but said that she realized after she fell that something was on the floor and also that her pants leg were wet.

The defense argued that they did not see anything on the floor after the fall and that they did proper inspections by looking out at the floor from behind the counter over the course of the day.

The plaintiff alleged that the defendant failed to do any inspection of the premises for spills and failed to place any mats or warning signs in the area to prevent liquids from accumulating or to warn customers of the dangerous condition. The defendant conceded that they placed mats at the entrance, but not in the area of plaintiff’s fall. The defendant alleged that another “watch your step” sign could not be seen as customers exited the store.

The plaintiff suffered a trimalleolar fracture of the right ankle and required ORIF surgery and implantation of a plate and screws. She also suffered a laceration to the back of her head requiring six staples.

The female plaintiff, age 72 at the time of the incident and age 75 at trial, contended that the defendant submarine shop’s employee negligently failed to make proper inspections, resulting in the presence of spilled liquid directly in front of the steps leading to the exit for the extended period of approximately 45 minutes. She maintained that as result, she slipped and fell as she was exiting the establishment, suffering an ankle fracture. The defendant denied that it had notice of any condition, and questioned whether a substance, rather than the plaintiff getting tangled up, caused the incident. The plaintiff indicated that when she entered the store, she went up three interior steps and ordered her sandwich. She maintained that as she was leaving the store and approaching the interior steps, she slipped on a clear liquid. The plaintiff alleged that immediately after the fall, she noticed that her slacks were wet. The plaintiff contended that in view of this testimony, it was evident that the presence of a liquid substance caused the fall.

She also established that before she entered, the last customer who purchased a sandwich did so approximately 45 minutes earlier. The plaintiff asserted that the only logical inference was that the liquid spilled when this customer left. The evidence disclosed that one employee was in the shop during this period and the plaintiff maintained that if the employee inspected the area as claimed by the defendant, the liquid would have been observed and the area was dried. The defendant contended that if liquid was present as the plaintiff entered the store as claimed by the plaintiff, she was comparatively negligent in failing to observe it. The plaintiff maintained that as she approached the steps, her feet flew in the air in a manner described as a "Hydroplane" slip by plaintiffs expert engineer, which was particularly consistent with liquid on the floor.

The plaintiff suffered an ankle fracture and required open reduction internal fixation surgery with surgical hardware installation. The plaintiff maintained that the severe pain has continued and that walking even a relatively short distance is extremely painful and difficult. The jury was aware that the plaintiff found walking to the court house approximately two blocks from her parking area produced extensive discomfort. The plaintiff, who lives alone, contended that she has very significant impediments to performing everyday activities and tasks. The plaintiff also maintained that the jury should consider that she was formerly very youthful and active and that now she feels much older than her years.

The defendant’s pre-trial offer was $0.

The jury found the defendant 80% negligent, the plaintiff 20% comparatively negligent, and rendered a gross award of $________, including $________ for pain and suffering and $________ for medical specials.

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