A Jury in a Pennsylvania Slip and Fall case recently awarded a $4 Million verdict to compensate a man who was blinded in one eye after being injured outside of a retail store.  It took just an hour for the jury to find the store liable and award the huge verdict to a man who was seriously injured by tripping and falling on a single step on a sidewalk in front of a store.  The step had no railing or paint marking it’s existence which camouflaged it and caused the fall.

The Duty of Care of a Business Owner

Pennsylvania law states that an owner of a business owes a high duty of care to its customers to protect them from unnecessary harm, like injuries that can result from Slip and Fall accidents.

The business owner must protect customers from foreseeable harm by conducting reasonable inspections of the property to uncover any dangerous condition that guest might not notice and then either correct the condition to make it safe or warn of the condition.

 Case of William Waite v. Argento Family Partnership

William Wait was at a shopping center and had just finished shopping.  He was walking on a sidewalk towards his car and encountered a single step down on the sidewalk that was about 6 inches high.  There was no railing or painted markings which would make the presence of the step obvious to pedestrians.

Mr. Waite did not notice the step as he was walking and he tripped, fell forward and struck his face and left eye on an Adirondack chair that was positioned on the sidewalk just beyond the step.  Mr. Waite suffered near complete blindness in his eye as a result of the injury.

In the trial, Mr. Waite’s lawyer presented expert testimony from an architect who indicated that the sidewalk was defectively designed and constructed because single steps are a well-documented hazard to pedestrians because they are often hard to see.   As such, such steps should be marked with brightly colored paint or railings so that pedestrians can detect and avoid the danger.

The Jury seem swayed by photographs of the sidewalk and step as it was and then digitally altered to include a bright warning stripe as well as testimony from the expert about the minimal cost to correct the danger.

At the end of the trial, it took the jury just an hour to find the property owner negligent and to award Mr. Waite $4 Million in compensation for his eye injury.

Lessons to Be Learned

There are two lessons to be learned from this case.

First, business owners need to take their responsibilities of inspecting their properties seriously.  Dangerous conditions need to be discovered and corrected or customers need to be warned so that they can protect themselves.

Lesson two is that if you are injured while patronizing a business, you may have a legal right to fair compensation if your injury was caused by the negligence of the business owner.

Tim Rayne is a Pennsylvania Slip and Fall and Personal Injury lawyer with the Chester County law firm MacElree Harvey.  For over  20 years, Tim has been helping injured victims of accidents receive fair treatment from insurance companies.  Tim has offices in Kennett Square and West Chester Pennsylvania and can be reached at 6108400124 or trayne@macelree.com



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