Slip and fall on tile stairway at medical building leads to claim of TBI. $2.6 million. Sonoma County.
Sales rep slips and falls down stairway at medical complex, says stairs were wet from rain. Defendant hospital admits liability at trial, but denies plaintiff suffered significant brain damage.
- Case Name: Tuttle v. Ukiah Adventist Hospital dba Ukiah Valley Medical Center
- Court and Case Number: Sonoma County Superior Court / SCV248442
- Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, December 04, 2014
- Date Action was Filed: Monday, October 18, 2010
- Type of Action: Slip and Fall
- Plaintiffs: Jack Tuttle, 51, male, medical sales representativeMegan Tuttle, 50, female, office/financial manager
- Defendants: Ukiah Adventist Hospital dba Ukiah Valley Medical Center (Tenant of premises where plaintiff fell).
- Type of Result: Jury Verdict
- Gross Verdict or Award: $2,626,378
- Net Verdict or Award: $2,626,378
- Settlement Amount: With defendants not in at trial: Cash Settlement: $1,735,000; Structured Settlement: $1 million reached August 7, 2014.
- Award as to each Defendant:
Related Settlements Defendants:
Ceramic Tile, Inc., a tile manufacturer
Selberg Associates, Inc., the architect
Crane of Ukiah, Inc., the contractor
Gary Peterson, Carol Peterson and Peterson Tile, the subcontractor
Ukiah Valley Medical Plaza, LP - the owner of the subject premises
- Contributory/Comparative Negligence: Waived by defendant.
- Economic Damages:
- Non-Economic Damages:
- Trial or Arbitration Time: 17 days.
- Jury Deliberation Time: 2 days.
- Jury Polls: Various.
- Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: See additional notes at bottom.
- Attorney for the Plaintiff:
The Liccardo Law Firm LLP by Salvador A. Liccardo, Laura S. Liccardo and Paul S. Liccardo, San Jose.
- Attorney for the Defendant:
McNamara Law Firm by Martin Ambacher and Nolan Armstrong, Walnut Creek.
- Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):
Richard J. Andolsen, M.D., family medicine, Healdsburg. (Treating Physician)
Alex Barchuk, M.D., orthopedic rehabilitation, Kentfield.
Deborah L. Doherty, M.D., physical medicine, Kentfield.
Carol R. Hyland, M.A., life care planning, Lafayette.
Michael McDermott, M.D., orthopedics, Santa Rosa. (Treating Physician)
J. Richard Mendius, M.D., neurology, Greenbrae. (Treating Physician)
Richard P. Olcese, Psy.D., neuropsychology, Santa Rosa. (Treating Physician)
Gary Stimac, M.D., Ph.D., radiology, Seattle, WA (Neuroradiologist)
- Defendant's Medical Expert(s):
Thomas G. Sampson, M.D., orthopedic surgery, San Francisco.
Jerome A. Barakos, M.D., neuroradiology, San Francisco.
Alan D. Shonkoff, Ph.D., neuropsychology, Berkeley.
Gary P. McCalla, M.D., emergency medicine, Santa Rosa.
Mark Luoto, M.D., emergency medicine, Ukiah.
- Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):
Louis Y. Cheng, Ph.D., injury biomechanics, Alameda.
Thaddeus J. Whalen, Jr., Ph.D., economics, Saratoga.
- Defendant's Technical Expert(s):
Margo R. Ogus, Ph.D., economics, Mountain View.
Facts and Background
- Facts and Background:
Around 9 a.m. on April 28, 2010, plaintiff Jack Tuttle, 50, a medical sales representative, slipped on the 2nd floor landing and fell two flights of stairs at a medical complex, Ukiah Valley Medical Center in Ukiah. He was not holding onto the handrail when he slipped. The medical complex was newly constructed, only 2½ years prior to the fall. It rained for two days prior to and including the date of plaintiff's fall. Tuttle sustained injuries to his ankle, knee, shoulder, elbow and head.
- Plaintiff's Contentions:
That the architectural design of the medical complex included an open atrium that allowed rain water to reach the central landing and stairwell, creating a slippery condition on Spanish tile. In the construction of the medical building, the prefabricated stairwell did not fit without adjustments to its alignment, creating code violations on the landing and the stairs themselves so as to allow the ponding of rain water on the upper middle and lower landings of the central stairwell. Further, that adhesive material on the toe of the individual stairs was excessively worn. That defendant hospital had clear notice of the defects consequent to prior slip and falls on the tile in various locations of the building’s second floor. Plaintiff contended that the handrail was not sufficiently extended on the upper landing and that plaintiff had attempted to reach for the handrail unsuccessfully.
- Defendant's Contentions:
Prior to trial, defendants denied that rainwater reached either the landing or the central stairwell; they denied the plaintiff fell down the entire 2-story stairwell, contended that plaintiff was negligent in not watching where he was walking and in failure to use the handrail.
Prior to trial, defendant denied any defects whatsoever in the stairwell or landing and denied any negligence in maintenance of the stairwell. Defendant further denied there were any prior falls because of slippery tile. Also contended that plaintiff’s head was not injured in the fall.
At the commencement of trial, defendant hospital stipulated and admitted that they were negligent and that their negligence caused plaintiff’s fall, that there was no comparative negligence on the part of the plaintiff or any other party to the action.
Case was tried against the defendant hospital on damages alone. Defense experts contended that there was no evidence the plaintiff struck his head in the course of the fall, but if he did, he received only a minor concussion and no brain injury. Defendant's neuropsychologist testified that his complaints of memory limitations, executive function compromise, and emotional anxiety were minor and passing.
Injuries and Other Damages
- Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:
Fractured knee; shoulder dislocation; ankle sprain/strain; elbow contusion; loss of range of motion. Brain injury (TBI) with frontal lobe internal bleed leading to memory impairment; wife claimed loss of consortium.
- Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $445,136.11
- Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $3,928,786
- Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $215,000
- Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $390,000
Demands and Offers
- Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: 8/20/2013: $1,800,000 for Jack and $98,000 for consortium for Megan.$4,350,000 for Jack; $350,000 for Megan.
- Defendant §998 Offer: 11/27/13: joint $350,000 to both plaintiffs; 8/19/14: to Jack, $550,000; to Megan, $50,000.
- Defendant Offer during Trial: $135,000 offered at trial on day of verdict.