Despite Plaintiff’s liability expert’s direct testimony that Defendant’s outdoor, wooden, spiral staircase failed to comply with at least three safety and building codes, Eamon Merrigan successfully obtained a defense verdict in favor of his client. Plaintiff argued that Defendant’s steps became dangerously slippery after having been rained on within a few hours of her fall. As a result of the fall, Plaintiff fractured her leg requiring two surgeries. Plaintiff further argued that Defendant must have known of the potential danger from prior rainy days and that Defendant was negligent in not taking any action to protect against the danger.
Defendant testified that he personally sanded the steps at least once every few years over the course of approximately 30 years in an effort to provide a slip-resistant surface, and that he was not aware of the steps ever becoming slick, even when wet. Mr. Merrigan presented further evidence indicating that hundreds of people, including the plaintiff herself, traversed that steps in the years leading up to her fall, and that no one ever slipped or reported the steps to be slick, even on rainy days. Perhaps more importantly, on cross-examination, Mr. Merrigan successfully obtained a concession from Plaintiff’s liability expert that the codes he claimed Defendant’s steps failed to comply with did not actually apply to Defendant’s steps as their construction predated the inception of the codes. The jury apparently agreed with Mr. Merrigan’s argument that Defendant had no notice of the alleged defect and that Plaintiff’s fall was merely an isolated incident. After less than one hour of deliberation, the jury returned with a finding of no negligence.