Slip, trips and falls account for approximately one-third of all personal injuries in the workplace and remain a top cause of workers’ compensation claims. An accident at work can occur at the least expected moment. This is what happened to a delivery man who got injured when making a delivery to a contractor who managed food services for an airport. The worker stepped into and fell over an uncovered hole, suffering bilateral tears on his shoulder and knees. The injured worker was not able to return to work. He filed a Workers’ Compensation claim with his employer’s insurance, which paid out partial lost wages and covered the necessary medical treatment. Worker’s injuries required extensive treatment and physical therapy.
The injured worker also sued the owner of the premises and tenant contractor, arguing that the defendants negligently failed to provide proper maintenance of their parking lot, resulting in a missing sewer grate in an area of the parking lot where people would walk through. The evidence revealed that the incident occurred in the rear part of the parking lot where deliveries were normally made. The plaintiff mentioned that this area was covered by surveillance cameras. Plaintiff's counsel sent a certified letter three days after the incident advising the defendants to preserve the surveillance video footage of this area for the day of the fall. The plaintiff contended that despite timely notice, the defendants did not preserve this footage.
The defendants argued that the area of the fall was not within the field of view that was captured by the video surveillance camera and, therefore, there was no evidence to preserve. The defendants additionally claimed that the alleged defective condition, involving an approximate two-foot in diameter hole, was open and obvious and that the worker was comparatively negligent in avoiding stepping into it. The injured worker countered that he was in the process of performing his job duties, delivering products to the defendant's facility and argued that his failure to observe and avoid the hole under these circumstances was understandable. The plaintiff presented a co-worker to testify that he had observed on prior occasions that this grate was missing. The plaintiff further showed testimony from defense employees that other grates in the parking lot had turned up missing in the past.
The plaintiff suffered bilateral shoulder and bilateral knee tears in the fall which required four arthroscopic surgeries. An arthroscopy is a type of surgery where a surgeon makes a small incision and then passes the arthroscope through the skin into the joint. A special camera sends the images to a television monitor. If necessary, instruments that can cut or shave are inserted into the joint through other small incisions. Possible side effects of arthroscopic surgery include a small risk of infection and blood clots. Moreover, the procedure does not stop the progression of osteoarthritis. Symptoms of the disease are likely to return over time and surgical realignment or replacement of the joint could ultimately be necessary. Here, the plaintiff had suffered injuries to both his shoulder and knees in a prior accident in 2000, that had involved arthroscopic surgery to both shoulders. At that time, he also declined undergoing suggested bilateral knee surgeries after this previous accident.
The defendants in this action maintained, that any difficulties the plaintiff is currently experiencing stemmed from these prior injuries. The plaintiff countered that he had no symptoms for many years and had been able to perform his delivery duties at work without any difficulties prior to the incident. The plaintiff contended that as a result of the injuries he sustained in the fall, he has been labeled permanently unemployable. The plaintiff complained that everyday activities with his family are painful and difficult. He testified that he has problems with extending shoulders, kneeling, squatting, climbing up stairs and prolonged walking. The case settled prior to trial for $2,250,000.00
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