Premises Liability $1,185,000
“JS” was a hard-working, well-liked insurance claims representative. She was also an energetic and loving mother and wife. She was able to accomplish a great deal in her personal and professional life, despite a complicated medical history, which included a neck surgery, back surgery, and a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. These setbacks resulted in an early retirement and begrudging acceptance of Social Security disability benefits. Consistent with her fighting spirit, JS rehabilitated and persevered. She voluntarily relinquished her disability benefits and returned to work, achieving top production honors in her department within months of her return. Life was good. Tragically, her comeback story was cut short permanently when she tripped and fell in her employer’s office building lobby. Due to building renovations, a temporary flooring system composed of masonite sheets created a tripping hazard. JS caught her shoe, causing her to fall and injured her back and shoulder. As a result, she underwent and additional back surgery and developed RSD/CRPS in her dominant hand & arm.
Before the file was referred to BTG, the insurance carrier denied the claim, pointing out that JS had traversed the area over which she fell hundreds of times in the weeks before the accident. The carrier also pointed to JS’s complicated medical history and prior back and neck surgeries as the cause of her disabling condition. The claim was denied.
During the ensuing litigation, the defense pulled out all the stops. The building owner, building manager, and contractor hired a dozen liability and damages experts. Nearly 30 depositions were taken. The case was bifurcated for trial, with the liability phase to occur first. Faced with a strong comparative negligence defense, due to the client’s intimate knowledge and repeated use of the lobby in the weeks before the accident, the attorneys at BTG developed a strategy to combat this defense. Two critical experts were retained—a well respected human factors scientist and the SE Regional Safety Expert of a large international construction company. During the liability trial, BTG demonstrated through these experts that the client’s repeated safe use of the temporary lobby floor did not demonstrate a lack of attention on the day of the event. Instead, it gave her a false sense of security and a low expectation of risk of injury. The safety expert established that the manner in which the temporary floor was constructed, with a lack of daily inspection, was an accident waiting to happen. The jury rewarded BTG’s efforts with a finding of 90% liability on the defense, 10% on plaintiff, and 0% on three Fabre defendants.
After another year of hard-fought litigation on the issue of causation of injuries, complicated by the client’s pre-existing medical conditions, BTG was able to secure a 7-figure recovery for the client. Though she has been unable to successfully return to work, JS continues to live with her husband and daughter, focusing her time and energy on her family and church activities.