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Philadelphia County, PA

This premises liability action arose from a trip and fall on the steps outside the defendant Temple University’s Dental School in Philadelphia. The plaintiff alleged that the fall resulted from the defendant’s negligence in failing to maintain the steps in a safe condition and allowing an elevation difference between the cement blocks. The plaintiff also claimed that the handrail was defective and inappropriate to halt the plaintiff’s fall. The defendant denied that the stairs or handrail were dangerous and maintained that the fall resulted from the plaintiff’s failure to watch where he was walking.

The plaintiff was a 48-year-old man who was in the course and 3 3 scope of his employment as a photocopy repairman when he entered the defendant’s building on September 14, ________. As the plaintiff was leaving the building, he claimed he tripped and fell as a result of a defect in the front steps and handrail. The plaintiff testified that he attempted to grab the handrail for support, but was unable to grasp it and fell down the three steps to a landing.

The plaintiff’s engineer testified that the steps of the building were defective in that one of the cement blocks comprising the steps was higher than the adjoining block and a gap had opened between the blocks, creating a dangerous tripping hazard. The plaintiff’s expert also testified that the handrail of the steps was too wide and could not be easily grasped to prevent falls. The plaintiff submitted photographs depicting the condition of the steps and railing at the time of his fall. The plaintiff also introduced models of handrails to show the width of the handrail at issue and the width of what the plaintiff contended was a properly designed handrail.

The plaintiff was diagnosed with two cervical disc herniations which his neurosurgeon causally related to the fall. The plaintiff underwent a three-level cervical fusion in December of ________. He claimed that he has been unable to return to his former employment as a photocopy repairman and is permanently limited to sedentary employment. The plaintiff alleged that his employment opportunities are limited by a high school education, and his work history of 25 years as a repairman in the copy machine business, so that he is unable to obtain alternative employment. The plaintiff earned approximately $________ at the time of the accident and claimed $________ to $________ in future loss of wages and approximately $________ in future medical expenses.

The defendant argued that the plaintiff was cleared by his physician to return to light-duty employment, but has made no effort to locate another job. The defendant’s vocational expert opined, based on the fact that the plaintiff had worked as a manager before he started employment as a copy machine repairman, that the plaintiff had the skills and experience to obtain employment in a managerial position. The defendant’s expert opined that the plaintiff could earn up to $________ as a manager.

The defendant also argued that the defects alleged by the plaintiff did not constitute a dangerous condition and did not cause the plaintiff’s fall. The defense stressed that there had been no prior falls on the front steps in the 20 years since their construction. Finally, the defendant contended that the plaintiff’s cervical condition was degenerative and not causally related to the accident.

The jury found the defendant ________% negligent and awarded the plaintiff $________ in damages. The award included $________ in lost of wages and medical expenses; $________ in pain and suffering and $________ to the plaintiff’s wife for her loss of consortium claim. The defendant’s post-trial motions are pending.

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