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$________ GROSS Fall down air shaft at shopping mall - L1 compression fracture - calcaneus fracture - loss of hip strength.


The male plaintiff, age 32 at the time, alleged that the defendant corporate owners of a shopping mall negligently failed to secure a dark room containing an open air shaft, resulting in the plaintiff falling eight and one half feet into the shaft and sustaining L-1 and calcaneus fractures.

The plaintiff, who at the time of the accident was a tenant of the defendant mall, testified that he was setting up his newsstand, which was to be opened the following Monday, when the electricity went out. The plaintiff requested the assistance of a mall employee to reinstate the power. The employee, who worked at the mall as a landscaper, led the plaintiff to an electrical control room located in the basement of the mall. The gate and door to the electrical room were unlocked and without warning signs, according to the plaintiff’s testimony. The plaintiff entered the room, which had a three-foot wide floor, turned left and fell eight and one half feet down into an open air shaft.

The plaintiff’s building code expert testified that the absence of railings, warnings signs or security for the air shaft violated applicable Florida building codes and OSHA standards. The plaintiff’s orthopedic surgeon testified that the plaintiff sustained a "Grade 1" compression fracture at L-1. The plaintiff additionally suffered a calcaneus fracture in the fall, with a resulting 28% permanent disability of the body as a whole. The plaintiff’s neurologist testified that the plaintiff additionally suffered a minimal loss of muscle strength in his hip as a result of the injuries. His rehabilitation specialist indicated that future medical treatment would be needed. The plaintiff’s expert economist testified that the plaintiff lost $________ in past wages caused by the delay of opening his business. The plaintiff claimed that he would not be able to run the business without the assistance of a $5-6 per hour employee for the remainder of his worklife.

The defendant contended that the plaintiff was overwhelmingly comparatively negligent in failing to consult mall maintenance personnel and in failing to obtain a flashlight before entering the dark room to search for electrical circuits. The landscaper for the defendant mall testified that he knew he had no authority to make repairs, but was trying to help the plaintiff. The defendant’s orthopedic surgeon testified that the plaintiff’s injuries constituted an 8% disability of the whole person. The jury found the defendant 75% negligent and the plaintiff 25% comparatively negligent. The gross award of $________ was molded in accordance with the jury’s apportionment of liability.

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