GMR Partner Joe Petka successfully defended a Philadelphia Hospital’s volunteer program. The plaintiff, a 70-year-old widow, was a patient at a local hospital. At the time of the fall, a hospital volunteer was escorting her to her doctor’s appointment. The volunteer was recovering from a brain injury and needed a cane to walk. While walking together down the hallway, the plaintiff was injured when she tripped over the volunteer’s cane.
The plaintiff sued the hospital, arguing that the volunteer program was negligent for placing this man in a position where he had to walk with visitors, and that they were negligent via agency.
The plaintiff fractured her shoulder in two places. Her medical expert testified that the shoulder had healed incorrectly; and, as a result, would cause permanent pain and limitations. At the time of trial, the plaintiff continued to have complaints of shoulder pain and limitations.
Due to his brain injury, the volunteer did not have the capacity to testify. Therefore, Mr. Petka had to refute liability via cross-examining the plaintiff alone. Accordingly, Mr. Petka got the plaintiff to agree that: 1) she knew the volunteer needed a cane but still chose to walk on the same side as the cane; 2) the volunteer seemed to be walking normally; 3) the volunteer did not make any sudden movements before the fall; and 4) that plaintiff did not know exactly how the cane came into contact with her leg. Based on the above factors, Mr. Petka argued that the plaintiff could not meet her burden of proof that the volunteer was negligent. Moreover, it was as likely that the plaintiff failed to pay attention to where she was walking.
The Philadelphia jury agreed with Mr. Petka and found that the plaintiff failed to prove negligence on behalf of the hospital.