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Bergen County

In this action, the 74-year-old female plaintiff, who was partially blind contended that the defendant mall negligently failed to either place mats or cordon off a common area between stores where the floor consisted of stones embedded into the flooring material and which, the plaintiff contended, tended to become very slippery when wet. The plaintiff maintained that she slipped and fell over water present in this area, suffering a severe fracture to her left, nondominant wrist. The accident occurred on a rainy day. The plaintiff argued that the floor probably became wet when customers tracked in water. The area was 20 to 30 feet in diameter.

The plaintiff maintained that despite her vision difficulties, she lived a very active life and would enjoy taking walks on an almost daily basis. The plaintiff’s vision difficulties were such that although she could discern whether an individual was male or female, she could not see sufficiently well to identify facial features. The plaintiff related that on the day of the accident, her friend had driven her to the mall so that she could walk about inside during the rainy day.

The plaintiff maintained that as she was walking in the indoor courtyard area after having arrived at the mall approximately one hour earlier, she suddenly fell and noticed after the fall that the area was wet. The plaintiff presented an eyewitnesses, who related that she observed the plaintiff before the fall and made special notice of her because although elderly, she was dressed very well. The witness related that the plaintiff had appeared to be walking without any difficulties. The witness testified that the plaintiff’s feet suddenly came out from under her and she fell. The witness indicated that she did not observe if the floor was wet at the time. The plaintiff argued that the description of the manner in which her feet suddenly slipped out from under her was particularly consistent with the fall being caused by a wet floor.

Shortly after the accident, and in accordance with previously scheduled modifications, portions of the mall, including the flooring in the courtyard, had been changed, and although the plaintiff and plaintiff’s counsel’s investigator had visited the mall before such changes were made, the modifications were effectuated before an inspection by the plaintiff’s engineer could be made. The plaintiff’s engineer maintained that the defendant should have taken simple precautions such as placing mats or cones in the area, or cordoning the area off when rainy conditions outside rendered it probable that water would be tracked in by customers. The plaintiff maintained that irrespective of the plaintiff’s visual impairment, she was fully capable of observing such mats, cones or stanchions.

The plaintiff presented the security guard who came to the plaintiff’s assistance and who indicated that she had observed on prior occasions that the floor in this area became very slippery when wet. The witness denied that the floor was wet at the time.

The plaintiff maintained that this testimony should be significantly questioned, especially in view of the eyewitness account of the plaintiff’s feet suddenly coming out from under her.

The defendant’s manager denied that the floor would tend to become slippery when wet. The defendant’s expert engineer also maintained that the area was safe. The defendant argued that the plaintiff’s underlying visual difficulties were probably the cause of the fall. The plaintiff countered that despite her visual impairment, she had led a very active life, often walking relatively long distances, and argued that this defense position should clearly be rejected. The plaintiff also argued that individuals with visual impairments are among the mall’s patrons, and that the premises should be maintained in such a manner as to provide reasonable protection to such individuals as well.

The plaintiff contended that she sustained a severe, displaced fracture of the left, nondominant wrist. An initial closed reduction was insufficient, and the plaintiff underwent an open reduction with the placement of an external fixation device several weeks later. The fixator device was removed several months later and the plaintiff also underwent several more months of physical therapy. The plaintiff maintained that she will permanently suffer significant pain and loss of strength as well as intermittent swelling. The plaintiff, who is widowed, maintained that she now has extensive difficulties with everyday household cleaning and tasks of the nature.

The plaintiff maintained that she had always been a very hard working and dedicated individual. The plaintiff related that prior to her retirement, she had worked virtually her entire adult life and at times worked two jobs. The plaintiff further related that she had been determined to continue to lead as active and fulfilling a life as possible despite the vision problems which had plagued her in recent years. The plaintiff argued that the jury should consider that the wrist difficulties caused by the fall have rendered her attempts to remain active very difficult.

The jury found the defendant ________% negligent and awarded $________.

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