New York Premises Liability - Trip and Fall on a Broken Step - Verdict $794,000

WRSH Partner Kenneth Halperin obtained a verdict in the amount of $794,000.00 for a 48-year-old woman who was injured when she tripped and fell on a broken step leading into the lobby of her building.

The accident in question occurred in a vestibule leading into the lobby of the plaintiff's apartment building. The accident occurred when plaintiff's left foot went into a portion of a step from which a tile was missing. As a result, she lost her balance and fell backwards onto the landing below the staircase. The evidence at trial established that the crack in the tile started to form approximately four years earlier and grew in size to the point where the concrete was now exposed. Defendants argued that if the crack was present for approximately four years and plaintiff knew about it, then she was at fault for failing to simply avoid it on the day of her accident. They also argued that a misstep and/or the fact that she was wearing sandals could have contributed to her fall.

We were able to convince the jury that over an extended period of time, people in general, and the plaintiff here, do not always recall a known danger, especially one that they are forced to encounter on a daily basis. This argument was supported by a legal concept called "momentary forgetfulness", which the Court read to the Jury in its closing instructions. This concept basically states that people who have knowledge of a dangerous condition sometimes forget about it and that their failure to recall it at the time of their accident does not necessarily mean that they are at fault, or contributorily negligent, as a matter of law. The jury agreed and found the defendants 100% at fault for the happening of the accident.

As result of the accident, the plaintiff sustained a mild compression fracture at one level in her cervical spine, a partially torn rotator cuff in her left shoulder and a sprain and strain of her lumbar spine. She received physical therapy for approximately eight (8) months following the accident. The defendants called two doctors during trial, both of whom testified that the plaintiff did not have a fracture in her cervical spine, or a partially torn rotator cuff in her left shoulder.

The defendants offered a mere $25,000 to settle the case prior to trial and never increased their offer prior to the jury's verdict. The jury awarded $250,000 for past pain and suffering; $500,000 for future pain and suffering; and $44,000 for past and future medical expenses, for a total verdict of $794,000.

In this case we used "SMART BOARD" technology, which involves displaying all of the evidence on a large screen, so that the jurors can clearly see all of the evidence. This technology also allows us to highlight, enlarge and perform other demonstrative acts with the evidence to draw attention to the portions that help our case. This clearly gave us a decided advantage in presenting our case to the jury.

This client retained our firm after Ken assisted her in her efforts to obtain financial support from her husband with whom she was separated. Ken represented her as part of his Pro Bono legal work for a group that provided free legal services to low income woman in need of assistance.

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