A “trial loss” is not always as bad as it sounds. In <a href="http://blog.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Murray-v.-Tripoldi.pdf">murray-v-tripoldi</a>, a Philadelphia jury awarded the plaintiff, who fractured his ankle after slipping and falling on an icy residential sidewalk, just $2,729 in past medical expenses.
In February of 2014, the plaintiff slipped and fell on ice accumulation on the defendants’ sidewalk, resulting in a fractured ankle. The plaintiff claimed the ice presence resulted from a snowstorm that occurred days earlier. The defendants argued that plaintiff assumed the risk of traversing the ice-laden sidewalk, as neighbors had shoveled their sidewalks and there were safer alternative routes the plaintiff could have taken. Defendants also argued that the accumulation was an open and obvious condition for which the defendants could not be held liable. The defendants successfully argued these defenses at court-mandated arbitration, which resulted in a no-cause award. The plaintiffs appealed the arbitration award and the case proceeded to trial.
At trial, the plaintiff sought to recover $2,729 in past medical costs to treat the fracture and for physical therapy, plus damages for pain and suffering – especially for pain experienced while dancing. At trial, defendants relied only on their liability defenses and did not challenge the plaintiff’s injuries or medical treatment. The case went to verdict, and the typically plaintiff-friendly Philadelphia jury only awarded the plaintiff the exact amount of his medical expenses.
Though an assumption of risk defense and open and obvious defense are intended to shield defendants from liability altogether, in this instance, it appears that these defenses influenced the jury to cap the plaintiff’s damages at their literal amount. This case demonstrates that taking a case to verdict can yield high rewards for defendants when there are low, undisputed damages, coupled with strong liability defenses that highlight common sense.
Thanks to Rachel Freedman for her contribution to this post.