The Key Slipups in a Slip-and-Fall Case
Richard B. Mangan, Meredith Stephens, and Kendall Griesse
An exceptional track record and unmatched trial experience go a long way in the world of insurance defense—but when it comes to the most twisting and turning of cases, creativity and dogged diligence are absolutely critical to delivering results.
In the case at hand, Rissman attorneys Richard B. Mangan, Meredith Stephens, and Kendall Griesse obtained a favorable defense verdict following a four-day trial in a slip-and-fall matter at a large regional grocer.
The plaintiff alleged that she slipped and fell on salad dressing spilled by a grocery store employee. The retailer admitted fault, and initially had little leeway in the case given store video evidence and the plaintiff’s resulting surgery following the incident. That began to change as proceedings unfolded.
Leading into the trial, there were two matters that ultimately went in the defense’s direction. First, the plaintiff’s treatment under letters of protection and compliance with accompanying Medicare billing laws was called into question. And second, the plaintiff was supposed to get her pre-incident medical records from Puerto Rico, but failed to do so, which helped the defense.
During the trial, the defense secured two key favorable elements. First, the court struck down the plaintiff’s expert because the plaintiff disclosed them late. Second, during his testimony, the plaintiff’s treating surgeon failed to use the language of reasonable probability regarding the aggravation of a pre-existing condition. As such, the defense obtained a partial directed verdict.
Throughout the trial, the defense was concerned about testimony from its own expert physician, who opined that the post-incident care and surgery were related to the incident. He gave testimony before the adverse instruction ruling was rendered, so the defense argued his testimony was limited to what he reviewed. The defense read his testimony proactively to the jury in order to get ahead of cross-examination.
In closing, the plaintiff argued that negligence was not disputed and that the defense’s testimony was relevant. The plaintiff asked for a sizable sum but ultimately reduced that claim in closing. The defense disputed causation based upon the adverse inference instruction and suggested limiting the award to only past pain and suffering for months following the incident.
After four hours of deliberation, the jury rendered a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, but in keeping with the defense’s suggestion of focusing on past pain and suffering, rather than future.
Publix served a proposal for settlement for $300,000 in May of 2023. As such, Publix is entitled to its fees and costs from the date of its proposal. Publix will have a judgment in its favor.
Special thanks to Hillary Hazeltine, Paula Morrell, Al Smoot, Ashley Adorno, Christelle Nozime, Michele Carroll, Natasha Rueschhoff, and Chris Ringer for their hard work in getting this case ready for trial—and to Cami DiGiacomo, Amanda Piccininni, Brittany Molinari, and Brianne Wendol for their help in researching information about the prospective jurors during voir dire.