$375,000 for West Windsor Township Slip-and-Fall Accident
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Slip and Fall on Black Ice
Doe v. Canal Pointe Condominium Association and The Brickman Group LLC, No. MER-L-2159-04
Mercer County Superior Court, NJ
Paul T. Koenig
Gabriel R. Lependorf, Lependorf & Silverstein, P.C., Princeton, NJ
Joseph K. Cobuzio, Tomkins, McGuire, Wachenfeld & Barry, Newark, NJ (The Brickman Group LLC)
Kenneth Courtney, Law Offices of Edward H. Keiper, Pennsauken, NJ (Canal Pointe Condominium Association)
FACTS AND ALLEGATIONS
At 10:45 a.m. on January 27, the plaintiff, a resident of Canal Pointe condominium community in West Windsor Township, opened her garage door and walked down her driveway to toss a bag of garbage in the trash can. She slipped on black ice and fell, injuring her wrist.
The Canal Pointe Condominium Association, responsible for coordinating snow removal, had hired out The Brickman Group LLC to conduct the actual removal.
The plaintiff sued Canal Pointe Condominium Association and The Brickman Group. Property management expert Fred J. Malone determined, through discovery, that both defendants were negligent for knowing about condition. Plaintiff had been on the priority list for snow and ice because she had a steep driveway.
Counsel argued that the association manager should have been more familiar with the weather conditions and known of the premises, and failed to take due precautions.
During deposition, The Brickman Group’s crew chief said that he knew of that morning’s icy condition and added that it was not unusual to visit the condo association even when it hadn’t snowed.
The Brickman Group denied liability. As they’d been at the premises the day before, at 3 p.m., counsel argued that the crews did their part to maintain a safe condition.
Even if Brickman had applied salt or calcium chloride the day before, counsel argued that it would not necessarily have changed the condition of the plaintiff’s driveway the following day. Climatology expert Frank Lombardo found that the ice formed just prior to the plaintiff’s fall due to freezing precipitation.
Brickman’s crews only visited the association when they were called and asked. They had not been called the morning of the plaintiff’s fall.
Canal Pointe Condominium Association also denied liability, arguing that the condition arose rapidly, leaving no time for action prior to the plaintiff’s fall. An expert determined that there’d been freezing rain 30 minutes prior to fall, which did not leave enough time for the association to correct the situation.
Counsel argued that the plaintiff bore comparative negligence; she should have been more careful.
The plaintiff suffered a Caleazzi-type radius fracture in her left hand. Within the year she underwent two open reduction internal fixation (ORIF) surgeries on her left hand. The second was to correct a failed first surgery. In May, she underwent a third surgery to remove the hardware.
Dr. Lee Ostermand, a hand specialist, reported that the surgeries were necessary and entirely related to the fall.
She claimed loss of range of motion in the hand, minor deformity, and resultant weakness that caused difficulty cooking and cleaning.
The defense contested the severity of the injury, opining that due to a preexisting condition of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis she suffered all the problems before and after the fall.
Alan Sarokhan, a hand specialist, determined that while the injury was caused by the accident, the plaintiff had extensive pre-existing problems. Previously, she’d undergone a number of surgeries on both hands.
During the mediated settlement with attorney Louis DeMille, Canal Pointe Condominium Association agreed to pay $335,000 and The Brickman Group LLC agreed to pay $40,000.
Fred J. Malone, property management, Wayne, NJ
A. Lee Osterman, M.D., hand surgery, Philadelphia, PA
Frank P. Lombardo, meteorology/climatology, Hackettstown, NJ
Alan J. Sarokhan, MD, orthopedic surgery, Summit, NJ
This report is based on interviews with plaintiff’s counsel and defense counsel.
– Stephen Kurczy
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