Joe Petka Obtains Back to Back Victories for Philadelphia Health System – Jury Trial Defense Verdict and Non-Suit

Joe Petka’s March victory involved a family doctor’s office that was being sued for a fall that happened in the examination room. An 82-year-old great-grandmother tripped and fell on a step stool that she alleged was left in the walking path of the office. The plaintiff alleged that she sustained labral tear in her right shoulder and several herniations in her cervical spine. As a result of the injuries, she could no longer use her dominant arm which made her unable to comb her hair or hold anything in her hand. Plaintiff’s husband, who had a consortium claim, testified that since the fall, he had to assist his wife with all of her personal hygiene.  Plaintiff’s expert opined that she needed future surgery to her neck and right shoulder which would cost approximately $200,000.

Mr. Petka defended the case on liability arguing that a step stool is not a dangerous condition; it was open and obvious and the plaintiff not paying attention to where she was walking.  The jury heard testimony from the plaintiff, her husband, three medical experts, a medical assistant and a representative from a therapy facility. The Philadelphia jury of 6 men and 6 women deliberated for approximately 45 minutes before returning a defense verdict; finding that the doctor’s office was not negligent. 

Joe’s February jury trial involved a 59-year-old female auditor who was alleging a brain injury. The plaintiff was leaving the defendant’s hospital when she allegedly tripped on a sidewalk expansion joint and struck her chin on the pavement. The plaintiff was taken from the scene of the fall to the emergency room and then followed up with her family doctor for headaches, lightheadedness, and forgetfulness as well as neck pain.  Accordingly, Plaintiff was referred to a neurologist and a psychotherapist.  She also had therapy for neck pain over the course of several months. The plaintiff continued to receive neurological treatment over the course of two years up until trial.

Plaintiff’s neurological expert testified that she sustained permanent neurological injuries, including posttraumatic encephalopathy, posttraumatic headaches, vertigo and vestibulopathy, disequilibrium, gait dysfunction, acquired autonomic dysfunction with lightheadedness, and a bi-temporal cortical injury, as well as an injury to both frontal lobes of her brain.

Although the plaintiff was sympathetic, on cross-examination, Mr. Petka had her admit that because she sustained a head injury, she did not know how or why she fell. She further admitted that her earlier testimony that she tripped on the expansion joint was just her “best guess.”

Accordingly, after the plaintiff rested his case, Mr. Petka made a Motion for Non-Suit as the plaintiff failed to prove why she fell. After hearing argument on the issue, Judge Shreeves-Johns of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas dismissed the jury and entered a non-suit for the hospital.