A sixty-nine-year-old woman, Lynda Sadowski, suffered a broken knee cap resulting in surgery after falling on a knocked down wet floor sign laying flat on a multi-colored floor inside of a Casino buffet. Surveillance video confirmed that, during the 90 seconds before Lynda fell, multiple other customers had run into the sign as they were distracted by a brightly lit dessert display while also trying to avoid walking into other patrons. The video also captured a casino employee walking by the sign, without picking it up, eleven seconds before Lynda fell. It was the Casino's position that the fall was solely Lynda's fault as the sign was an open and obvious danger.
The following is a step-by-step analysis showing how we helped a courageous woman after she suffered a life altering injury.
Hurdles to overcome
I. "The sign was open and obvious"
The law in Ohio is that a Casino or other commercial business does not owe is paying customers a duty to pick up or warn against dangerous trip hazards if those conditions are open and obvious to a reasonable person under the circumstances. The Casino and its insurance company used this to deny all liability.
II. Blame on Lynda
The Casino claimed that even if the sign was not open and obvious under the circumstances and that it owed Lynda a duty to keep its property in reasonably safe condition, Lynda's fall was 100% her own fault.
III. Even if the Casino was at fault, Lynda's suffering and pain was not worth anything
At the time of trial, Lynda was almost 72 years old. Medicare paid her medical expenses and she had no lost wages as she was retired. The defense calculated that she had approximately 15 more years to live. The defense presumed that a jury would not value an old woman with no outstanding medical bills or lost wages.
What we used to obtain a $3 million verdict
I. The law on open and obvious conditions
A Casino owes a duty to its customers to use ordinary care for its customer's safety and to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition so that customers are not unnecessarily and unreasonably exposed to danger. But, if the trip hazard is open and obvious under the circumstances, a Casino owes no duty to its customers. Under Ohio law, a business customer is not required to constantly look downward while walking. In fact, if there are any distractions that would capture the attention of a reasonable person under the same circumstances then a condition may not be open and obvious.
In this case, we spent a great deal of time educating jurors on the law. We showed through video evidence that reasonable people (other customers) consistently missed seeing the knocked down sign as they were distracted by the brightly lit dessert displays while also trying to avoid running into other customers. Like the other customers who ran into the floor sign before her, Lynda's attention was captured by the desserts under the bright lights of the casino display, which is what the casino wants, and it was reasonable for her not to see a knocked down sign, which was not at eye level, laying flat on a multi-colored floor.
II. The Casino's conduct
We focused on the fact that the Casino admittedly had up to 50,000 customers a week inside of its property and did not have a single rule in place for floor safety. The Casino had no floor inspection policy requiring employees to check floors and walkways throughout the casino at hourly intervals. In fact, the Casino had no policies in place requiring its employees to pick up trip and fall hazards when they see them. Finally, we went over the Casino's internal incident report, which stated a casino employee failed to pick up a trip and fall hazard 11 seconds before Mrs. Sadowski's fall. The corporate representative, speaking as the voice of the Casino, said that the Casino disagreed with its own incident report and that the employee did nothing wrong.
III. Focus group
We conducted a videotaped focus group with two separate groups of participants who reviewed the videotape of the incident and facts surrounding it. 10 out of the 12 mock jurors found the casino 100% at fault and the other two found the casino at least 80% at fault. The focus group participants also assessed damage in the millions.
IV. Valuing Lynda's Human Losses
In the fall, Lynda suffered a completely displaced knee cap fracture. As a result, she could not straighten or bend her leg, was in severe pain and could not walk. To fix her knee cap, Lynda had to undergo major surgery under general anesthesia and have metal hardware permanently inserted into her knee. She was bed ridden and wheelchair bound for a month and had to undergo a year of formal and in-home physical therapy. Even after a year of physical therapy, she still had persistent knee pain, swelling and mobility issues - especially up and down stairs and on uneven surfaces. She is now a fall risk and lives with trepidation about falling. As a result, she restricts her activities and doesn't live the active, carefree lifestyle she did before her fall. Her mobility is only getting worse and she is facing the possibility of another surgery and may need a total knee replacement due to accelerated arthritis at the knee joint from this trauma.
Trying the Case
Even after the lawsuit was filed, the Casino and its insurance company denied all liability and never offered more than the cost of the defense, $25,000.00, to settle Lynda's case. The Casino forced Lynda to go to trial. After a three-day trial, a Hamilton County Jury unanimously found that the sign was not open and obvious under the circumstances, that the casino was 100% negligent and the sole cause of Lynda's injuries. Finally, six out of 8 jurors returned a verdict for the full $3,000,000.00 we asked for.
There are very few attorneys who successfully try serious injury cases. There are even fewer attorneys who repeatedly obtain million-dollar verdicts. Please contact us any time for a free consultation. The lawyer you select may be one of the most important decisions you ever make.