$1,500,000 for Woman Injured in Slip and Fall on Snow on Front Landing and Steps

COURT AND COUNTY
Supreme Court, Bronx County

AGE AND OCCUPATION OF PLAINTIFF
Plaintiff was 42 years old and working as a residential aide at the time of the accident.

DESCRIPTION OF CASE
Plaintiff slipped and fell while exiting her apartment building in the Bronx, on a Saturday morning in February after a snowstorm. Plaintiff claimed that there was snow on the front landing and steps, but could not say whether it was more than two or three inches. There was a handrail post on the landing but the railing had broken off prior to the accident.

Defendants moved for summary judgment on liability. Defendants argued that they performed snow removal the evening before the accident, through 5 or 6 p.m., and that Plaintiff slipped on snow that fell overnight, and that they were not required to remove that snow until a reasonable time period the next morning, under the 'storm in progress' doctrine. Defendants further claimed that they began removing snow on the morning of the accident, a Saturday, as early as 7:30 a.m. Defendants also argued that they were not required to install a handrail under the applicable building code, and that, in any event, the lack of railing could not have contributed to Plaintiff's fall because she fell on her first step onto the landing and could not have reached the railing. Plaintiff's attorneys at Block O'Toole & Murphy, LLP argued that there was an issue of fact that had to be decided by a jury at trial regarding whether Defendants performed reasonable snow removal because only trace amounts of snow fell overnight and Plaintiff testified that she slipped on more than an inch of snow. Block O'Toole & Murphy, LLP further obtained a nonparty eyewitness affidavit indicating that there was twelve inches of snow on the landing and stairs. Defendants argued that the eyewitness affidavit should not be considered because it was not disclosed earlier and was not submitted according to the proper procedures. Block O'Toole & Murphy, LLP prevailed, convincing the Court to deny Defendants' motion.

Defendants appealed the decision. Block O'Toole & Murphy, LLP prevailed in opposing the appeal; the denial of summary judgment was unanimously affirmed by the Appellate Division.

INJURIES/DAMAGES
Plaintiff alleged injuries to her neck, back and right knee. Specifically, she claimed that she sustained herniations of the intervertebral discs of her spine at the C3/4, C4/5, C5/6 and C6/7 levels, which she claimed caused right-sided radiculopathy at the C6 level. She also claimed that she sustained a herniation of the L5/S1 level of her spine and chondromalacia in her right knee. She underwent an athroscopic right knee surgery; a one-level cervical fusion and a one-level lumbar laminectomy and partial discectomy.

Plaintiff claimed that she was unable to resume her job as a residential aide at a shelter, where she was earning approximately $9.00 per hour, and sought damages for lost earnings, medical expenses, and pain and suffering. The defense claimed that Plaintiff had chronic degenerative disc disease in her spine and degenerative changes in her right knee with no evidence of a traumatic tear. The defense further claimed that Plaintiff was capable of working and engaging in her normal activities without restrictions. The defense also claimed that Plaintiff exaggerated her symptoms.

RESULT
The case settled for $1,500,000 a week before the scheduled trial date.

NOTE
This matter was handled by partners Stephen J. Murphy and David L. Scher and associates Michael J. Hurwitz and Christina (Mark) Mercado.