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Middlesex County

The female plaintiff legal secretary, age 21 at the time, contended that the landlord of the office building in which she worked maintained the interior stairway in a negligent manner in that there was an approximate 3/4 inch deep and 3/4 inch wide depression in the carpet at the point where the carpet met the approximately four inch wide wooden nosing on the step. The plaintiff contended that her high heel became caught in the depression as she was descending from the second floor, resulting in her falling some eight to ten steps. The plaintiff contended that she suffered a rotator cuff tear on the right, dominant side, and that she will permanently suffer significant pain and restriction despite two arthroscopic interventions. The plaintiff also contended that she suffered a trauma to the dominant elbow which has resulted in ulnar neuropathy which will permanently cause tingling and numbness in the 4th and 5th fingers despite two surgical procedures. The plaintiff further contended that she was left with an approximately seven inch long scar. The plaintiff contended that she will permanently suffer difficulties with everyday tasks and will be forced to give up her avocation of painting and sculpting for which she had gone to school and which she contended was the passion of her life.

The plaintiff’s expert engineer pointed to photographs which the expert maintained clearly showed a depression in the carpet at the edge of the step as the carpet met the very wide wooden molding. The plaintiff contended that the defendant, which maintained a regular presence on the site, should have observed the hazard and correct it. The plaintiff’s expert contended that the area was dangerous and violated well recognized industrial safety standards.

The defendant’s expert contended that the condition of the carpeting at the edge of step did not contribute to the accident.

The expert contended that based upon the plaintiff’s deposition testimony, in which she indicated that her foot extended some distance over the step as she was walking, the plaintiff had failed to walk down the steps in a safe manner. The expert testified from a biomechanical standpoint that extending her foot in this manner caused her to lose her balance and fall. The plaintiff denied that this position should be accepted. The plaintiff further denied that she walked improperly. The plaintiff had indicated that approximately 1/3 of her foot was extending. The plaintiff argued that the jury could observe that as the defendant’s expert was stepping from the platform to the diagram during cross-examination, his foot was extending over the edge to the same approximate extent as the plaintiff described on a photograph and the plaintiff maintained that the defendant’s contentions that she was walking improperly should, therefore, clearly be rejected.

The plaintiff contended that she sustained a partial tear of the rotator cuff on the right, dominant shoulder. The plaintiff’s expert orthopedist related that an initial arthroscopic intervention was not successful and that the plaintiff required a second procedure. The physician contended that despite this surgery, the plaintiff will permanently suffer pain and very significant restriction. The plaintiff maintained that she cannot lift her arm above her head and is significantly restricted in the extent to which she can move her arm behind her back. The plaintiff maintained that she will have great difficulties dressing and performing everyday household difficulties such as reaching for a dish on an upper shelf.

The plaintiff also maintained that she suffered a non-fracture trauma to the elbow which caused ulnar neuropathy. The plaintiff’s expert related that an initial transposition surgery in which the nerve was moved from the its channel near the elbow was insufficient and that the plaintiff required a second surgery. The plaintiff contended that she will permanently suffer numbness and tingling in the 4th and 5th fingers of the dominant hand which are innervated by the ulnar nerve. The plaintiff contended that she will suffer such pain, discomfort and disability for the remainder of a very lengthy life expectancy.

The plaintiff also contended that the surgical scar is very noticeable and causes embarrassment. The plaintiff contended that the scar reminds her of the incident on a daily basis and heightens her emotional upset.

The plaintiff, who was able to return to work, testified that she has great difficulties when occasionally required to lift files and that her handwriting has suffered greatly. The plaintiff related that she had gone to art school and that painting and sculpting were her passion in life. The plaintiff maintained that she will permanently be unable to continue such endeavors and that the loss of enjoyment of life for her was extensive. The plaintiff produced several pieces of her artwork and contended that although not of professional caliber, it was clear that she had talent and that her inability to continue this activity, which she greatly loved, represented a significant loss in her life. The plaintiff also argued that the jury should consider that should the plaintiff marry and have children, she will face very extensive difficulties caring for the children.

The jury found the defendant ________% negligent and awarded $________. The defendant’s post-trial motions are pending.

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