State Appeals Court Upholds Ruling for Plaintiff Following Hospital Slip & Fall

A Connecticut resident filed suit for negligence after injuring herself while walking to the Danbury Hospital parking lot. She prevailed during a bench trial, and the defendant appealed. The Connecticut Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision, which may be interesting to Massachusetts slip and fall claimants as well.In June 2010, the victim and her daughter were visiting the victim’s husband, who was being treated at Danbury Hospital. After their visit, they exited the hospital’s main building and walked onto a walkway leading toward the parking lot. They were familiar with this walkway, since they had made this same trip several times in the past.

While they were walking along the pathway, the victim hit something with her foot and fell to the ground. As a result of the fall, she sustained injuries to her right foot and ankle. It later was determined that she had broken her big toe and damaged the fifth metatarsal of her right foot. Within minutes of the fall, she was taken to Danbury’s emergency room, where she was examined and treated for her injuries. As a result of her fall, she experienced chronic lower back pain from a protruded disc that required several epidural steroid injections and, eventually, a surgical decompression procedure. The lower court ruled for the victim following a bench trial.

On appeal, the defendant first claimed that the trial court erroneously found that the defect in the walkway that caused the plaintiff’s injuries was a reasonably foreseeable hazard. The appeals court disagreed, reasoning that the trial court reviewed reports prepared by members of the defendant’s security and medical staff, as well as photographs depicting the alleged defect and the surrounding area, and it heard the testimony of the plaintiff and her daughter describing the fall and the defect. The trial court therefore had before it adequate evidence of a broken slab of pavement that contained a chip in a well-traveled walkway that had existed for a sufficient period of time. Thus, the appeals court concluded that the findings related to this claim were not clearly erroneous, and the conclusions were not unreasonable.

Next, the defendant claimed the trial court erroneously found that the divot actually caused the plaintiff to fall. The appeals court also found this argument unavailing. The appeals court reasoned that the lower court’s findings that the plaintiff’s fall was a substantial factor in bringing about her injuries and exacerbating her preexisting spinal stenosis were supported by the record. There was expert testimony that the plaintiff’s fall was a significant factor in her accelerated need for surgery. The relevant medical records admitted into evidence indicated that the plaintiff began significantly complaining to her physician of chronic back pain shortly after the incident and prior to seeking surgical treatment. The testimony and medical records demonstrated that, prior to the fall, despite the radiological presence of the plaintiff’s preexisting condition, the plaintiff led an active and independent lifestyle. For these reasons, the appeals court concluded that the trial court’s finding that the divot actually caused the plaintiff to fall was not clearly erroneous.

Finally, the appeals court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the defendant’s motion to preclude the expert testimony of one of the plaintiff’s treating physicians. The court reasoned that the expert’s reliance on the plaintiff’s statements to him pertaining to her medical history did not render his opinion factually baseless. Furthermore, the plaintiff’s recitation of her medical history to the doctor was reinforced by other medical records admitted into evidence, on which he relied, describing her complaints regarding back pain shortly after the fall and the extensive treatment she received thereafter.

Moreover, although the expert testified that his apportionment between the plaintiff’s preexisting condition and the fall was admittedly arbitrary, he nonetheless opined that the plaintiff’s fall was a significant factor in causing her accelerated need for surgery. His opinion was supported by the plaintiff’s medical history and had a reasonable foundation in the evidence. It was therefore within the province of the court, as the trier of fact, to credit some, all, or none of the expert’s testimony regarding his conclusion that the plaintiff’s fall exacerbated her preexisting condition.

For these reasons, the Connecticut Appeals Court upheld the judgment.

If you or a loved one was harmed by another party’s negligence, you may need the assistance of a premises liability lawyer to seek compensation. At the Neumann Law Group, our Massachusetts attorneys provide trustworthy legal representation to victims all over the state. Contact us toll-free at 800-525-NEUMANN or use our online form to set up a free consultation.

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