Securing a Supermarket Resolution
Art Young, Meredith Stephens, and Taylor Brooks
Over the course of 1,500-plus trials, we’ve developed highly informed instincts, finely honed skills, and an appetite for ever greater challenges. And those challenges don’t always come from cases that look highly complex at face value. Sometimes, even the most seemingly simple matters can escalate as proceedings unfold.
These sorts of cases are often the sort of matters we find most exhilarating. In this particular matter, Rissman attorneys Art Young, Meredith Stephens, and Taylor Brooks obtained a favorable result for a regional supermarket chain following a five-day trial.
In the matter at hand, the plaintiff slipped and fell in clear liquid at the local grocery store. Store video showed a customer creating the spill a few minutes before the fall. An employee was near the spill but failed to observe it.
Though the case may sound simple, in execution, it was anything but. Over the defense’s objections, the judge read an altered version of the standard jury instructions to the jury—inserting language from the 2002 Markowitz case, which was decided under the mode of operation theory. Prior to closing arguments, the judge reversed herself and gave standard instructions.
Challenges continued when the judge allowed testimony from the plaintiff’s life care planner on an updated LCP provided the morning of his testimony. Importantly, the planner acknowledged on cross-examination that he had earned a hefty sum for his services and had been used extensively as a resource for the plaintiff’s firm over the past two years.
At the directed verdict, the plaintiff argued that the employee near the spill should have seen the water requiring a directed verdict. The judge granted the plaintiff’s directed verdict on negligence.
The plaintiff asked for substantial payment in closing. After four hours of deliberation, the jury returned a much more conservative verdict sum—the amount of the plaintiff’s ER visit from the date of the incident.
The defense beat the value of its proposal for settlement, entitling it to attorneys’ fees and costs, which will offset the small recovery amount.
Special thanks to Rissman team member Katie Gannon, who helped tremendously with jury instruction issues, along with Kendall, Al, Hillary, Ashley, and Cristelle in case preparation.