Negligent Maintenance – $385,000 GROSS VERDICT

Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 8.20.40 AMPremises Liability – Negligent Maintenance – Negligent closure of handicapped restroom stalls – Fall down – Femur fracture – Internal fixation – 20% comparative negligence found. 

Broward County, FL

The plaintiff alleged that the defendant condominium association created a dangerous condition by negligently blocking access to the handicapped bathroom stalls on its premises. As a result, the plaintiff claimed that she could not get her walker into the narrow bathroom stall and was caused to fall. The plaintiff died approximately two years after the fall from unrelated causes and the case was continued as a survival action by her estate. The defendant denied negligence and maintained that the fall was caused by the plaintiff’s own negligence. 

The plaintiff was a female, in her early 80s, who was a resident of the defendant’s condominium complex. She was attending a card game in the condominium’s community center on October 6, 2007. The plaintiff alleged that, as part of a cleaning routine, the defendant’s employees negligently roped off the wing of the ladies restroom containing the handicapped stalls. The plaintiff, who suffered urge incontinence, was unable fit her walker into the narrow stalls available.

The plaintiff alleged that she called for help, but was ultimately forced to leave her walker outside the stall. When the plaintiff opened the stall door, she claimed her walker was pushed beyond her reach. The plaintiff took a step to retrieve the walker, but fell. The plaintiff was diagnosed with a femur fracture which required open reduction and internal fixation. She claimed her fall related injuries confined her to a walker for long-term, rather than short term. In addition, the plaintiff alleged that long-term use of the walker aggravated her preexisting rheumatoid arthritis to the point that a shoulder replacement was required.

The defendant argued that there were other handicapped restrooms available to the plaintiff, including

one approximately 200 yards away near the outside pool. The defense contended that the plaintiff could have summoned help and was comparatively negligent in causing the fall.

The jury found the defendant 80% negligent and the plaintiff 20% comparatively negligent. The plaintiff was awarded $385,000 in gross damages. The plaintiff acknowledged that the award for past medical expenses was more than the amount to which the plaintiff was entitled.  The plaintiff agreed to a remittur reducing the plaintiff’s award to $250,000 less 20%, for a net recovery of $200,000. The defendant’s motion for new trial is pending. The plaintiff has filed a post-trial motion to tax costs.

REFERENCE 

Estate of Lillian Meltzer vs. Kings Point in Tamarac, Inc. Case no. 08-05-4594 (25); Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips, 0302-12. Attorney for plaintiff: Samuel A. Coffey, Esq., of Fort Lauderdale, FL.

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