Defense Verdict in a Premises Liability Case
Cristobal Casal, and Yasmine Kirollos, partners in the firm’s Fort Myers office, obtained a defense verdict in a premises liability case tried over 2 days in Collier County, Florida. This was the first in-person civil jury trial in Naples since the pandemic resulted in the courthouse’s closure more than a year ago.
Plaintiff was a customer at the Defendant’s store and was in the health and beauty supply aisle looking for a cosmetic bag when she was struck by a box of merchandise on a flatbed cart that she alleged was left unattended by Defendant’s employees. There was video footage of the incident that showed the events unfolding. The Plaintiff and her daughter-in-law were escorted to the aisle by a store employee, the employee moved the cart with the boxes out of the way for them to access the products they were looking for and then stayed to speak with the Plaintiff before leaving the aisle. Another store employee was nearby stocking the opposite side of the shelf that the Plaintiff and her daughter-in-law were browsing with items from the flatbed cart. The flatbed cart with the boxes was left undisturbed for about two minutes and then the video showed the Plaintiff’s daughter-in-law pull the cart carelessly and abruptly which caused the boxes to immediately fall off the edge of the cart and strike the Plaintiff. At her deposition, the Plaintiff’s daughter-in-law denied moving the cart and was confronted with that inaccuracy at trial. At trial, Plaintiff argued that merchandise should not be restocked during business hours, that the cart should never be left unattended, and that Defendant’s own employee created the dangerous condition by moving the cart and causing the boxes to become unstable before Plaintiff’s daughter-in-law moved it. Defendant denied that the store’s practice was dangerous or that the cart was unattended since the video showed two employees at or around the cart while the Plaintiff was shopping. Defendant further argued that the incident would have occurred but for Plaintiff’s daughter-in-law carelessly pulling on the cart instead of asking the nearby store employee for help. Consequently, Defendant denied all liability for the occurrence of the accident.
As a result of the event, Plaintiff suffered a vertebral fracture to her lumbar spine that required a kyphoplasty at the emergency room. She also subsequently alleged a neck fracture for which she minimally treated. Defendant contended that she obtained an excellent result from the procedure and that there was no need for any type of ongoing medical care or treatment in the future.
The Plaintiff asked the jury to award $716,000.00 at the close of trial. The defense argued that there was no evidence of any fault against Defendant.
The jury deliberated for about two hours before returning its defense verdict.