$325,000 Recovery Premises Liability

Ocean County
Hospital- Slip and Fall – Negligent Maintenance
Hospital visitor slipped on water near ice machine

Verdict (P)$325,000
Case DaSilva v. Southern Ocean County Hospital, No. OCN-L-1324-01
Court Ocean County Superior Court, NJ

Plaintiff Attorney(s) Robert Fuggi , Fuggi & Fuggi, Toms River, NJ

Defense Attorney(s) Herbert Kruttschnitt III , Grossman, Kruttschnitt, Heavey & Jacob, Brick, NJ

FACTS & ALLEGATIONS On July 6, 2000, plaintiff Elizabeth DaSilva, 69, was visiting her terminally ill husband at Southern Ocean County Hospital in Manahawkin. Fruit and applesauce that plaintiff had brought for her husband was in the pantry behind the nurse’s station. When she went to retrieve the food, she asked a nurse at the station if she could go into the pantry. The nurse said she could. Plaintiff saw paper towels on the pantry floor and again asked the nurse if she could go in. The nurse assured her that she could. When Plaintiff stepped over the paper towels, her foot came down on water and ice that had spilled on the floor. She fell. Plaintiff sued Southern Ocean County Hospital for premises liability, claiming failure to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition. She asserted that the water and ice she slipped on came from an ice machine situated near the pantry. Her son testified that when he discovered her on the ground, her pants were wet, indicating that the spill had been there long enough to melt somewhat. The hospital contended that the ice on the floor came from a cup that Plaintiff had filled with ice. Alternatively, it argued that Plaintiff knew the floor was wet because she saw the paper towels. It claimed that she failed to exercise reasonable caution.

INJURIES/DAMAGES fracture, patella; fracture, tibial plateau; torn meniscus

Mrs. DaSilva sustained fractured tibial plateaus in both knees. She also sustained a fracture of the inferior poll of her left patella and bilateral meniscal tears. She underwent conservative treatments with an orthopedic surgeon 40 times before her physician recommended knee replacements. She sought past medical expenses of $8,000 and future medical expenses of $120,000. Plaintiff has to use a cane or a walker for ambulation and the injuries have and will continue to cause her a great deal of pain. She sought damages for pain and suffering. The hospital contended that significant degenerative arthritis was the cause of plaintiff’s lack of mobility. It claimed that plaintiff had seen an orthopedist one year before the accident, at which surgery had been recommended and she received cortisone injections in both knees.

RESULT The jury found the hospital 65% negligent and plaintiff 35% negligent. It awarded her $325,000 in damages, which was reduced to 211,000 as per the fault apportionment.