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DEFENDANT’S Premises Liability – Fall down – Alleged negligent non-emergency medical transport – Claimed failure to fasten seat belt of elderly passenger – Fall from seat – Hip fracture with surgery.

Palm Beach County, FL

The plaintiff was a 96-year-old female passenger in a non-emergency medical transport operated by the defendant. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant’s driver failed to fasten her seat belt during the ride, causing the plaintiff to fall from the seat. The defendant maintained that the plaintiff’s seat belt was fastened, but the plaintiff unhooked it, and thereby caused the fall.

The plaintiff entered the defendant’s transport with a walker. She contended that the defendant’s driver secured the walker, but did not fasten the plaintiff’s seat belt. The plaintiff testified (via video) that she always wears her seatbelt, but the defendant’s transport driver stated that she (the driver) was an excellent driver and therefore, the plaintiff did not need a seatbelt. The plaintiff fell from the seat and sustained a hip fracture, which required surgery. The plaintiff maintained that the defendant operated the transport in a negligent manner. The plaintiff claimed that the hip fracture, resulting in surgery, caused a loss of independence, which required the plaintiff to move to a nursing home for attendant care.

The defendant’s transport driver testified that the plaintiff chose to sit behind the driver’s seat and her seatbelt was fastened when the ride began. The defense contended that the plaintiff unbuckled her seatbelt, which was the proximate cause of her fall. The defendant stipulated that the plaintiff’s hip fracture constituted a permanent injury. However, the defense maintained that the plaintiff (age 99 at trial) moved to a nursing home for reasons unrelated to the incident. The defense stressed that the plaintiff had suffered 11 prior falls and had been recommended for a nursing home four years before the incident.The jury found no negligence on the part of the defendant, which was a legal cause of injury to the plaintiff. Post-trial motions are pending.

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