Whenever someone’s job takes them to multiple locations throughout the day they need to be prepared for a change in environment or terrain. However, that doesn’t mean that it is their responsibility to make sure the area they are working in is safe. The party that owns the property and any managers of that property are responsible for ensuring that the entire area is reasonably free of hazards in order to protect any visitors or outside workers.
Unfortunately for one service technician, a property he visited was not kept free of hazards, causing him to fall, changing his life forever.
A Greasy Floor Ends A Career
The victim was a 51-year-old service technician at the time of his accident. His work comprised of him traveling to different companies and fixing or cleaning various machines such as soda machines. On this particular day, he was working on a soft drink machine in a restaurant.
While turning to get a tool, his foot hit a greasy spot on the hard floor and both feet flew out from under him. He landed on his left shoulder. Like many other accident victims, he wasn’t certain that he was actually injured and continued on with his day. But by the next morning, he was in serious pain and went to the hospital. This is something we hear regularly at Banville Law from our clients who had a slip and fall accident.
The ER doctor, after running numerous tests, informed him that he had torn his rotator cuff and would require surgery. After a few weeks of physical therapy, he underwent the recommended procedure. Unfortunately, one surgical repair was not enough and he needed a second surgery nearly a year later.
The scar tissue left behind has limited his range of motion and he has constant pain in his shoulder. These restrictions mean that he cannot continue in his previous profession.
Despite his physical limitations, he attempted to learn new computer skills but was unsuccessful and has only been able to work odd jobs here and there since his fall.
Why Did He Pursue Legal Action?
Due to his inability to return to work and earn a steady income, the technician filed a lawsuit against the restaurant, alleging that they had failed to keep the property free from hazards. He claimed that the grease spot had either gone unnoticed or that no one had even attempted to clean it or put any sort of warning sign around the area. He further claimed that the restaurant owners had failed to train their employees on checking the premises for issues and addressing any hazards immediately.
The Restaurant’s Response
The defendants argued that the plaintiff was responsible for watching where he was going and that, since he hadn’t reported his fall to them on the day of the accident, there was no proof that a grease spot existed. They also alleged that his injuries had occurred elsewhere and were connected to a pre-existing injury.
A Jury’s Decision
The two parties were unable to settle out of court and the matter went before a judge and jury. After hearing arguments from both sides, the jury determined that the defendants were 70% responsible for the accident and that the plaintiff was 30% responsible. They awarded $2 million to the plaintiff which was reduced to around $1.4 million.
Plaintiffs Can Be Held Partially Responsible?
Absolutely. There are many cases in which a plaintiff is also responsible for the accident which caused them to become injured. In New York, this is known as comparative negligence.
When a judge or jury finds that the plaintiff is partially at fault, they then assign a percentage to that fault. This percentage is used to reduce the damages awarded to the plaintiff at the end of a trial.
For example, if $10,000 is awarded to the plaintiff but they are found 20% fault, their award would be reduced to $8,000.