Lori Miller Obtains Summary Judgment for Philadelphia Hospital in Slip and Fall Action

Plaintiff walked through the entranceway of the emergency department at a Philadelphia hospital and allegedly slipped and fell due to water on the floor of the hallway. Plaintiff sustained severe injuries to his cervical spine at C5-6 and C6-7 causing bilateral hand numbness, pain radiating from his neck to his left shoulder blade, and weakening muscles in his arms. His injury was purportedly so severe that a doctor subsequently recommended a cervical discectomy and fusion procedure. Additionally, he alleged that his injuries resulted in a loss of his earning capacity and other emotional injuries.

At his deposition, the plaintiff testified that he had arrived at the hospital earlier that day with his mother, who required emergency treatment. After waiting in the emergency department, he went outside to smoke a cigar. He claimed that while he was outside, it was raining and he elected to smoke the cigar inside his vehicle. When he finished smoking the cigar, it was allegedly still raining. He then proceeded to re-enter the hospital through the same emergency department entrance and subsequently slipped, fell and hit the ground. He testified that he believed he fell because the floor was wet and was not properly maintained. He also initially asserted that no mats were present at the entryway. However, when asked whether he saw any water on the floor, he testified that he did not see water either before or after his fall. He further stated that he did not actually know what caused him to fall. He also admitted that mats were present after seeing a video showing that mats were, in fact, in the entryway at the time he slipped. Nevertheless, he still maintained that he slipped due to the hospital’s negligence in permitting wet conditions to remain on the premises.

In her motion for summary judgment, Ms. Miller argued that the plaintiff failed to present evidence sufficient for a jury to find that the hospital was negligent. Specifically, she argued that the plaintiff had produced no evidence that any defective condition existed on the premises, or that the hospital should have been aware of any defective condition. Rather, because the plaintiff could not say that he saw any water and did not know what caused him to fall, the plaintiff’s claim relied on mere speculation that he slipped on a wet surface. Such speculation is inadmissible as proof of a claim and insufficient to place a case before a jury. Furthermore, Ms. Miller argued that without any evidence as to how long the allegedly defective condition lasted, no jury could find that the hospital was negligent because the hospital could not be charged with constructive notice of such a condition.

Judge Bernstein decided the motion and issued an opinion specifically stating, “Even in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, there is no evidence which identified any defective condition the Defendants neglected to correct.” Accordingly, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the hospital and dismissed the plaintiff’s action.

For a copy of Judge Bernstein’s opinion, contact Lori Miller at