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Ill-Coated Walk Yields $2.6M Verdict

Friday, January 2, 2015

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A jury in Florida has awarded nearly $2.6 million to a churchgoer who crushed her knee in a fall on a new sidewalk that lacked a nonslip coating.

The concrete walkway outside Ascension Catholic Church in Boca Raton, FL, had not been properly textured with a nonskid coating, according an announcement made by the plaintiff’s attorneys, Glotzer & Kobren PA, following the trial.

Andrea Thompson, then 34, fell in September 2009, severely injuring her knee. Thompson was the second parishioner to have fallen on the sidewalk, which was slick when wet, according to the announcement.

sidewalk
© iStock.com / Hugh Stonelan

The subcontractor failed to install a non-skid, texturized surface coating on the concrete sidewalk, resulting in slick conditions and the churchgoer's fall. The walk shown is not the one in this case.

Thompson filed the premise liability suit in July 2010 against the Diocese of Palm Beach, which operates the church; Hunter Construction Company, the general contractor responsible for the sidewalk construction; and a subcontractor whose name was not immediately available.

The Diocese and Hunter admitted liability just before the trial began, and a settlement was reached with the subcontractor. So, the four-day trial focused on damages only. It ended in September 2014.

Missing Coating

During the discovery phase of the litigation, it was found that the subcontractor failed to apply a nonskid material on the concrete in order to make it safe for pedestrians.

The walk was sealed without a texturing material on top, making it slick when wet, attorney Matthew Kobren told the Daily Business Review. Additional details about the concrete installation were not immediately available.

Before the trial began, the subcontractor that performed the work reached a confidential settlement with Thompson and was dismissed from the lawsuit.

Previous Fall

The diocese also failed to investigate the condition of the sidewalk when alerted to the issue, the plaintiff’s attorneys said.

Another parishioner had fallen two weeks before Thompson. She had reported her fall to the diocese but did not make a claim for damages.

The diocese had a policy to stop an investigation if no damage claims were made.

Fall Aftermath

Since her accident, Thompson has undergone four knee surgeries, including a partial knee replacement, her attorneys say. Medical experts say she will need at least two total knee replacements in the future.

hospital room
©iStock.com / VILevi

As a result of her injuries, Thompson has undergone four knee surgeries, including a partial knee replacement, and will need at least two total knee replacements in the future, her attorneys say.

Thompson also never gained full mobility, the jury heard. As a result of the fall and her surgeries, she was also forced to move to a sedentary job at lower pay.

The defense suggested that Thompson should be compensated for past medical costs, but maintained that future costs were substantially less than her orthopedic surgeon had estimated.

The Verdict

Nevertheless, the jury awarded $148,767 for past medical expenses and $450,000 for future medical expenses.

She was also awarded $86,640 in past lost wages and $1.9 million for past and future pain and suffering, according to the verdict.

“After her accident, we learned that the church had somebody else come out and applied a clear finishing nonskid coating—what they should have done when they built it,” Kobren told the Daily Business Review.

Attorney Neal Colvin of Zurich North America represented the diocese and Hunter Construction under an indemnification agreement in the contract. Colvin did not immediately reply Wednesday to a request for comment on the case or its outcome.

An appeal was filed in late October, according to the Daily Business Record.

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Concrete coatings and treatments; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety; Laws and litigation; North America; Sealers

Comment from Mike McCloud, (1/3/2015, 7:24 AM)

Are you kidding? I slipped on a ski slope 30 years ago and my knee is still screwed up. How much can I (and the lawyers) get?


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