Defense Verdict in Superior Court Trip and Fall Following Appeal of $245,000 District Court Judgment

Attorney David Hassett successfully obtained a defense verdict in Worcester Superior Court on behalf of a defendant commercial property owner.  This Superior Court jury trial followed the appeal of a decision rendered in an earlier bench trial in the Clinton District Court.  Following the bench trial, the District Court judge awarded the plaintiff $245,000.00, plus interest and costs.  The defendant appealed and transferred the case to the Superior Court based on its view that the evidence did not support the judge’s finding as to negligence and that the amount of the judgment was inflated.

At the time of the Superior Court trial, interest of approximately 55% was to be added to any award and the District Court judgment then amounted to almost $380,000.

Factually, the case stemmed from a trip and fall that occurred on an exterior walkway outside a supermarket.  The plaintiff, then 67 years old, claimed that she was caused to trip and fall due to an uneven surface between a cracked and broken cement sidewalk and the asphalt parking lot.  The plaintiff was diagnosed with a complete full thickness tear of the right rotator cuff which ultimately required surgical repair.  Following surgery, the plaintiff suffered from cardiac complications and blood clots and was hospitalized for nine days.  The plaintiff was followed by the orthopedic surgeon and underwent physical therapy for approximately nine months post accident.

The plaintiff argued that the defendants were negligent in their maintenance of the exterior sidewalk and parking area and introduced photographs which depicted a chipped and broken edge to the sidewalk.  Further, plaintiff alleged the defendants were negligent in that they failed to warn of the height differential.  Lastly, the plaintiff argued that the District Court decision was prima facie evidence as to both negligence and the value of the plaintiff’s injuries and should be affirmed.

The defense argued that the condition of the sidewalk and height differential were open and obvious conditions, of which the defendant had no duty to warn, and that the plaintiff was not watching were she was going when the fall occurred.  The defense introduced medical records which documented that the plaintiff suffered from prior vision problems and issues with dizziness.  Further, the defense argued that the District Court decision was simply wrong as to negligence and inflated in the amount awarded.

The jury deliberated for approximately ninety minutes and returned with a defense verdict.