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Osceola County, FL

The plaintiff alleged that the stairs, maintained by the defendant homeowners association, were dangerous and caused her to fall. The defendant denied that the stairs were dangerous, and disputed the injuries which the plaintiff claimed resulted from the fall. The defense contended that, at the time of the fall, the plaintiff failed to wear ankle braces, which had been prescribed for her, thereby contributing to her fall.

The plaintiff was a 29-year-old female who was a guest of a tenant at the defendant’s Westgate Vacation Villas in Orlando on January 10, ________. She claimed that she was walking down the exterior stairs when she tripped and fell.

The plaintiff’s architect testified that the stairs were dangerous as a result of a slope on the bottom stair, the lack of uniformity, and a variance between the stair tread/riser ratio.

After the fall, the plaintiff was diagnosed with tendon tears of the ankle. She underwent reconstructive surgery on her ankle, and later developed reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD)/complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). After a series of nerve blocks, a spinal cord stimulator was implanted. The plaintiff’s treating orthopedic surgeon testified that the two torn tendons in the plaintiff’s ankle were caused by the subject fall.

The plaintiff’s life care plan projected in excess of $________ in future care, and assumed replacement of the spinal cord stimulator battery five to six times over the course of the plaintiff’s life expectancy of nearly 52 years. The plaintiff was employed as a retail sales associate at the time of the fall. She made no claim for lost wages or loss of future earning capacity at the time of trial.

The defendant’s human factors expert testified, based on his site inspection, that the stairs in question (constructed in ________) were not dangerous; even if there was a potential building code defect. The defendant’s architect opined that the stairs met the ________ building code, and that the ________ Life Safety Code did not contain any provision regarding slope.

The defense called a podiatrist who testified that the radiographic appearances of the plaintiff’s ankle before and after the subject fall were not significantly different. This expert did not believe that the plaintiff had RSD, and he opined that, had she been wearing the prescribed ankle braces and orthotics, the accident could have been avoided or lessened.

The defense also called a physiatrist/pain management expert who testified that a number of the items in the plaintiff’s proposed life care plan were unnecessary, and that there were no restrictions on her physical activities of daily living. The defendant’s pain management expert further testified that the plaintiff had preexisting foot and ankle conditions which impacted her current condition, and that her failure to wear the prescribed ankle braces likely contributed to her fall.The jury found no negligence on the part of the defendant, which was a legal cause of injury to the plaintiff. The plaintiff’s post-trial motion for new trial is currently pending.

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