Described by her attorney as a “young, attractive executive,” Christine Garland was attending a sales conference that was interrupted by her slip and fall on the rain-clicked marble floor of the hosting hotel. She’s endured excruciating pain in the four years since, undergone numerous surgeries and was eventually forced to give up her lucrative job.
The hotel’s insurer had an opportunity to settle for $750,000. Now the chain may have to shell out $3.6million in damages, after a diverse Fulton County jury voted in the plaintiff’s favor.
In his closing statement, says the Daily Report, the plaintiff’s attorney honed in on the conflicting testimony of hotel staff. Some employees testified that prior to opening the doors of the conference room wet floor signs and safety mats had been posted as warning– other employees directly rebutted this testimony as did the plaintiff, Garland, and her boss. The other clincher for this case was the taped depositions of Garland’s treating physicians – graphic testimony that went unchallenged by the defending attorney. As a result, Garland received upwards of $800,000 more than requested in pain and suffering, and a great deal more than the $210,000 settlement initially put on the table by the chain.
While the aim of the Court and attorneys is often to settle out of court (usually in order to avoid excessive court costs for plaintiffs and to expedite the process itself), in cases like this it sometimes becomes necessary to take a chance and appeal to the empathetic side of a jury. As an Atlanta slip and fall attorney familiar with these types of premise liability claims, I applaud the plaintiff’s attorney in this case zealously and successfully pursued the claim on his client’s behalf. Liability in slip and fall cases stem from the owner’s failure to maintain the premises in a safe manner. It is clear in this case that the owner failed to do so.
Some of the reasons a property owner may be held liable for a slip and fall or trip and fall include the owner’s failure to remove foreign objects on the floor, failure to repair defects on their property, failure to appropriately design their premises, failure to warn about a dangerous condition on their property and the failure to remove or improperly removing ice, snow or water. The latter is clearly the case here.
The hotel had an obvious duty of care to maintain the safety of its floors for its patrons. In a best case scenario, this included posting warning or wet floor signs, setting out safety mats and even posting employees in doorways as soon as staff became or should have become aware of the dangerous conditions. In premises liability cases, all too often it’s about timing and best efforts. Where there is failure to exercise either, the owner usually faces an increased risk of being held liable and a slip and fall becomes costly.
While disappointed with the verdict, the defense in this case has made no decision in regard to an appeal or any post-trial motions.
Land, Greg. "Jury awards $3.6m to woman injured in fall."Fulton County Daily Report[Atlanta] 20 June 2011: 1, 5. Print.