Slip, Trip and Fall Lawsuit Where Plaintiff Fell While Walking up a Staircase*

Case Summary:

This is a review of a slip, trip and fall lawsuit. In this case a woman fell while walking up the steps of an office building due to a defect in the steps' concrete. The injuries she sustained during the fall required her to be hospitalized and to miss several weeks of work while she convalesced.

After recovering, she made several attempts to negotiate a settlement with the office building's insurance company out-of-court. These negotiations failed to bring about an agreement. Frustrated, the woman retained a personal injury attorney and filed a slip, trip and fall lawsuit.

Statement of Facts...

On March 2nd, 2011, at around 8:30 a.m., Angela Lei was walking up the steps to her work when she stubbed her foot on a piece of concrete protruding from one of the steps. She fell, and as she did she put her hands out to try to brake her fall. Several passersby saw Lei fall and called for paramedics.

The fall to the concrete had left Lei with contusions and lacerations to both her face and hands. After stabilizing her, paramedics transported Lei to Mt. Sinai hospital where she received 13 stiches to her face and a plaster cast for her wrist. Lei had to remain in the hospital for two days.

Once out of the hospital, Lei spent another three weeks recovering at home before resuming work. All told, her losses amounted to $14,612 in medical bills with another $1,600 in lost wages.

Lei contacted the building's owner, Coop Investments, and informed them that she believed Coop was responsible for the defect and was therefore liable for her injuries. Coop's insurance company agreed to enter into negotiations for a settlement, but the negotiations eventually broke down.

Deciding that no more progress could be made outside of court, Lei filed a lawsuit against Coop alleging negligence on their part as building owners. Coop in response, filed a Motion for Summary Judgment asking the court to dismiss the case.

The Lawsuit & Motion of Summary Judgment...

Lei's slip, trip and fall lawsuit stated Coop had a standard of reasonable care to make sure their property, including, but not limited to the steps upon which Lei fell and was injured, was safe for the public.

Lei alleged Coop's breach of that standard of reasonable care constituted negligence. As a result of Coop's negligence Lei complains she was seriously injured.

In her lawsuit Lei sought the following damages and compensation:

  • Medical bills
  • Out-of-pocket expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering

Coop answered Lei's allegations the slip, trip and fall lawsuit by filing a Motion for Summary Judgment.

In civil cases, a motion for summary judgment is a legal document, or "pleading" which is filed by one of the parties in a lawsuit - usually the defendant. The motion is usually filed before the actual trial gets underway.

The Motion attempts to prove to the court that the plaintiff hasn't alleged any real facts for a jury to base their decision upon and that the plaintiff's lawsuit fails to show he has a prima facie case. Instead, the defendant asserts that what the plaintiff alleges is nothing more than speculation, conjecture, or conclusions, but no real facts.

If the court agrees with the defendant, the court grants the defendant's motion and dismisses the case right then and there. If the court denies the defendant's motion, the case proceeds to trial.

In its motion, Coop stated the facts alleged in Lei's lawsuit did not contain a Prima Facie case and did not include any evidence to show Coop had actual notice of the "defect" in the steps. Coop also stated the defect was so minor as to not be relevant.

Coop stated there were thousands of tenants and other members of the public who climbed those same steps daily, and that at least in the 10 years the office building was built and opened to the public, no one had ever filed a complaint about the protrusion, nor, as far as Coop knew, was anyone ever injured.

Coop went on to state Lei offered no proof her fall was as a result of the defect, and that Lei probably fell of her own accord, wholly independent of the steps' alleged defect. Coop asked the Court to grant its Motion for Summary Judgment and by granting it dismiss Lei's slip, trip and fall lawsuit against them.


Court's Decision on the Motion:

After hearing the pre-trial testimony of the plaintiff and the testimony of the passersby who came to Lei's assistance, the court was convinced the facts Lei alleged in her lawsuit petition were factual and constituted a prima facie case. As a result, the court denied Coop's Motion for Summary Judgment and the case proceeded to trial.

Jury Verdict on the Injury Suit:

After listening to the evidence presented by Lei in her slip, trip and fall lawsuit, including, but not limited to photographs of the defect, testimony of witnesses, Lei's medical bills, out of pocket expenses, and lost wages, the jury found for the plaintiff Lei and against the defendant Coop.

The jury awarded Lei the amount of $16,624 for her actual expenses, and $25,000 for Lei's pain and suffering. The total verdict was $41,624.

Important Points...

  • A person or entity that does business and is open to the public has a duty to the public to make sure their property is safe. That doesn't necessarily mean the person or entity is responsible for every single possible defect on the property. That would be impossible.

    Instead, the law states that as long as the person or entity has exercised a "standard of reasonable care" to do everything within reason to protect the public, that it may not be responsible for those injuries which may occur and which couldn't possibly have been detected by the defendant's exercising a standard of reasonable care.

  • Once a case gets past the pre-trial motions which are sometimes filed by defendants, it will be up to a jury to decide if a defendant breached their standard of reasonable care; and if so did that breach of the standard of reasonable care constitute negligence.

    If there was negligence which resulted in injuries to the plaintiff, the question then becomes how much compensation should the jury award.

*This case example is for educational purposes only. It is based on actual events although names have been changed to protect those involved. Any resemblance to real persons or entities is purely coincidental.

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