GMR Partner Joseph Petka represented a local hospital sued for negligence. The case involved a 66-year-old nurses aide who tripped and fell off the curb while leaving the emergency room at 3:00 AM. The plaintiff testified that it was so dark out that she could not tell she was walking off a curb. Plaintiff’s liability expert inspected the property and performed testing on the illumination. He opined that the lighting was insufficient, providing only 24% of the light required under the applicable property codes.
As to damages, the plaintiff alleged aggravation of a prior back injury. Ten years prior, the plaintiff had back surgery but had no treatment for back pain in four years leading up to the fall. However, after the fall, the plaintiff returned to a pain management doctor, received nine epidural injections and a lumbar discography, and underwent a spinal cord stimulator implementation. She was still treating with her pain management doctor at the time of trial. Moreover, her Pain Management doctor testified that she owed his practice $212,000 in outstanding medical bills.
For the defense, Joe argued that the fall was the plaintiff’s fault. Regardless of the lighting conditions, the plaintiff admitted that she never looked down before stepping into the street or even attempting to figure out where the street began before stepping into it. He also produced photographs taken at night to show that the area was not as dark as the plaintiff claimed. Ultimately, he argued the plaintiff’s failure to pay attention to where she was walking was the cause of her fall.
The Philadelphia jury of 8 men and three women (one juror was excused) agreed with Joe and entered a defense verdict for the hospital.