$4 Million Verdict for Slip and Fall Upheld
After a win at the trial court level, a three-judge panel from the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court has upheld a $4 million jury verdict for the plaintiff in in a personal injury case involving a slip and fall case on an icy sidewalk outside a school. In February of 2010, the plaintiff was on the campus of the Bacharach Institute for Rehabilitation, located in Pomona, New Jersey. At that time, the plaintiff was a part-time nursing instructor with Atlantic Cape Community College. The College had contracted with Bacharach to offer nursing classes using their campus. The plaintiff, then fifty-nine, slipped on a patch of ice while walking to her classroom. In doing so, she fractured her left ankle badly, and has so far required seven surgeries and a fusion procedure, which has not fully repaired the damage caused by her fall. She continues to have limited mobility and pain, such that she has been unable to return to work for Atlantic Cape Community College, and anticipates further high medical expenses relating to her ankle injury in the future.
The plaintiff sued Bacharach Institute for damages, on the basis that Bacharach was negligent in allowing ice to accumulate on its sidewalks, that it failed to remedy the dangerous condition, that it should have provided warning to students and teachers of the condition and provided better lighting over the sidewalk, and that it should have barricaded off the icy path. Bacharach argued that the plaintiff was partially responsible for her injuries (i.e., she was contributorily negligent) for failing to avoid the ice, and that she had understood the risk of walking on an icy sidewalk but did it anyhow (i.e., she assumed the risk of injury). Nevertheless, the trial court jury awarded her $4 million for her past and future expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering, which made it one of the largest verdicts in New Jersey in 2013.
Appellate Court Upholds Verdict as Reasonable, and Charitable Immunity does not Apply
The Bacharach Institute for Rehabilitation is a nonprofit organization, and therefore argued on its appeal that it should be exempted from paying the judgment under the Charitable Immunity Act. This law grants immunity for charities from judgment where the person suing them is an individual who directly benefitted from the charitable services being provided. However, the immunity doesn’t apply to individuals present on the nonprofit’s premises who do not benefit from this charitable purpose. The appellate panel rejected the defendant school’s argument, citing past cases that included a man who successfully sued for injuries he experienced while selling bonds on a religious center campus, and a nurse who recovered for injuries incurred on the premises of a hospital to which she was transporting a baby. The defendant also argued that the verdict was excessive and should be overturned for that reason, but the appellate panel found it reasonable.
Slip and fall injuries can be very serious, and the owners of property open to the public have an obligation under New Jersey law to keep the spaces safe for visitors. If you’ve been injured in a fall, seek out experienced personal injury legal assistance to determine if you may have a claim. Contact the Law Offices of Andrew R. Jacobs for a consultation on your potential slip and fall lawsuit, at 973-532-9681.