Plaintiff, a 25 year old mother, had just left the hospital emergency department and was walking down the ER ramp when she slipped and fell on black ice. The incident was immediately reported to security and plaintiff was evaluated at the hospital ER with complaints of pain and abrasions to both hands and the left knee. Although the security incident report confirmed that there were patches of ice at the bottom of the ER ramp, plaintiff admittedly did not show the security officer where she fell. Earlier in the morning, plaintiff had walked into the hospital over the same ramp and did not notice any ice at that time. At her deposition and the arbitration hearing plaintiff was unable to provide any description of what caused her to fall other than it was “black ice.” The security officer who investigated the incident died prior to the filing of the lawsuit.
As a result of the fall, plaintiff sustained medial meniscus tears in both knees. Plaintiff’s attempt at conservative treatment consisting of injections and physical therapy failed. Plaintiff underwent two separate arthroscopic surgeries to her knees within a year and half of the accident. Following the surgeries plaintiff still had ongoing knee pain and her orthopedic surgeon opined that she had a permanent disability. Plaintiff did not have any prior complaints of knee pain nor did she have any prior lawsuits.
The sole arbitrator found that plaintiff had failed to meet her burden of proof because she could not provide any description of what caused her to fall, i.e., where on the ramp the ice was located, the circumference of the ice patch, the depth, or how long it had been there. A defense award was entered for the hospital. The case was originally filed as a Philadelphia jury action which would have taken three to four days to try. Instead, the parties agreed to a binding arbitration and to submit the medical evidence on the reports and records. The hearing took less than a day and the client was able to save significant expert trial fees and defense costs.