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Essex County

In this action, the 45-year-old female plaintiff wedding guest contended that the defendant caterer cleaned spilled scungelli in a negligent manner, resulting in the plaintiff slipping and falling on the dance floor. The plaintiff maintained that she instinctively thrust her hands out to break her fall and suffered a fractured dominant wrist. The plaintiff contended that adhesions developed in the tendons and cartilage and that several years after the accident occurred, traumatic arthritis was detected. The plaintiff maintained that she faces the choice of undergoing a wrist fusion and losing mobility or living with severe pain.

The evidence disclosed that after the cocktail hour was over and as the trays were being removed, a tray containing a significant amount of scungelli and calamari with olive oil fell onto the carpet near the dance floor. The plaintiff maintained that although the defendant’s workers had cleaned it up, they failed to do so in a thorough manner. One of the guests who had a video camera, had taped a portion of the cleaning process which depicted three workers cleaning up the food and using a dust pan.

The plaintiff argued that a slow motion showing of the tape reflected some foreign substance on the carpet near the dance floor. The defendant denied that the videotape showed the complete cleaning process and that additional cleaning was done after the tape ceased.

The plaintiff contended that although three workers were involved, there was an extensive amount of food and that they failed to adequately remove it. The plaintiff contended that the food splattered upon the adjacent dance floor upon the initial spill or it had been carried on a guest’s shoe to the dance floor 4-5 feet away. The plaintiff also contended that after the defendant had finished cleaning and before the fall occurred, the groom’s mother had complained of residual food on the adjacent carpet. The defendant contended that the groom’s mother stood by the area for several minutes as it was being cleaned at this time. The evidence disclosed that the plaintiff fell approximately 30 minutes thereafter and during the first medley of fast songs played and the defendant maintained that it was clear that the food had been removed. The plaintiff maintained that she observed an unidentifiable oily type food substance on her shoe after the fall.

The defendant contended that the area was properly cleaned and denied that it caused the fall. The defendant’s assistant manager indicated during cross-examination that he could recall not recall if there were any further complaints after either the initial clean up or after the fall occurred. The plaintiff countered on the issue of credibility only that after the fall occurred, he was advised by the bride to clean up again to prevent another fall from occurring because residual food remained. The defendant did not recall receiving such later complaint.

The defendants also produced the bride and groom’s professional videotape which showed the dance floor prior to the introduction of the bride, groom and wedding party, along with the guests on their feet surrounding the dance floor. This tape was taken after the spill and before the fall. The defendant contended that the tape did not show any substance on the floor. The plaintiff countered that either the tape did not depict the food because it was not a close up close up of the floor, or did not depict the substance because it was carried to the nearby carpet on a guest’s shoe after this tape had been taken.

The plaintiff’s orthopedist maintained that the plaintiff suffered a wrist fracture on the dominant left hand. The orthopedist related that the fracture was casted. The plaintiff contended that the severe pain and restriction of motion increased over the next six month period and that the hand became cold to the touch. The plaintiff contended that some 6-7 physicians could not ascertain the cause and that ultimately, the plaintiff underwent same day surgery in which adhesions were noted in the tendons. The plaintiff maintained that although adhesions were removed, the pain and restriction continued to increase. The plaintiff underwent a second same day procedure several months later and the plaintiff contended that adhesions had formed on cartilage as well and that traumatic arthritis was detected. The plaintiff’s orthopedist maintained that the severe pain will continue to increase and that the plaintiff will ultimately be required to chose whether she will undergo the fusion or live with the severe pain.

The evidence disclosed that the plaintiff was a hairdresser. When her son, age 17 at the time of the accident, who was her only child, had been born, she commenced working only two per day week for some years, stopped for ten years and resumed a two day per week schedule approximately four years before the accident. The plaintiff maintained that she had always planned on returning full time once her son graduated. The plaintiff contended that she will be permanently precluded from continuing this career.

The plaintiff’s vocational expert maintained that she could have earned approximately $________ per year gross. The plaintiff testified that she could have earned between $________ and $________ per week net. The expert contended that as a practical matter, the plaintiff will be permanently able to function in a competitive job market. The defendant’s expert maintained that there were a number of jobs the plaintiff could perform. The plaintiff countered that she had made several attempts at employment, including working as a dental receptionist. The plaintiff contended that when the dentist desired to increase her duties to work with some chemicals, she could not do so and was required to leave the job. The plaintiff also contended that she had sought the retraining help from the of state and that such retraining was not successful to date.

The jury found the defendant ________% negligent and awarded $________, including $________ for pain and suffering, $________ for lost wages and $________ to the husband on his per quod claim. The defendant will file post-trial motions.

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