Plaintiff slips on water at an apartment building. $279K. Alameda County.

Summary

Plaintiff drank with cousin in cousin's apartment, then slipped and fell; cause disputed.

The Case

  • Case Name: Garcia v. Abeygoonesekera
  • Court and Case Number: Alameda County Superior Court / RG15
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Friday, July 22, 2016
  • Date Action was Filed: Thursday, March 26, 2015
  • Type of Action: Premises Liability, Slip and Fall
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Delbert Gee
  • Plaintiffs:
    Jorge Garcia, 46, unemployed carpenter at time of accident.
  • Defendants:
    Lakmin Abeygoonesekera
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $279,431.58
  • Net Verdict or Award: $279,431.58
  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: The jury found plaintiff was negligent in regard to his injury, but did not determine plaintiff’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing his injury.
  • Economic Damages:

    $39,431.58

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    $240,000

  • Jury Deliberation Time: 6 hours

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Law Office of Arkady Itkin by Arkady Itkin, San Francisco.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:
  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Law Office of John Biard by Maria Caruana, Walnut Creek.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    None.

  • Defendant's Technical Experts:
  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Elaine Serina, Ph.D., biomechanics, Hayward.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Plaintiff alleged he slipped and fell on a metal strip at the top of a set of carpeted stairs on January 19, 2014. The fall occurred at an apartment building in Oakland owned by defendant. Plaintiff was visiting his cousin, and drank beer while waching television. Plaintiff alleged he slipped because the bottom of his tennis shoes became wet after he stepped onto some water on the carpeted hallway just before he reached the stairs. He claimed the water came from a nearby laundry room.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiff contended that the defendant failed to conduct periodic inspections to maintain and clean premises, and failed to show any documentation showing any type of maintenance and inspection throughout the time the property was owned by him.

     

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendant offered evidence by way of testimony of the acting property manager, reflecting constant visits and inspection, and that there were two onsite managers who also cared for the property.  Defendant offered testimony that the laundry rooms on the floor where plaintiff fell had been made non-operational 6-8 months before the incident, that the laundry machines had been taken out and the pipes had been capped off.

    Defendant testified there was no notice of water on the carpet the day of this incident, or the preceding week, weeks or month before this incident. Defendant presented evidence by two EMTs that plaintiff showed signs of intoxication at the scene, including slurred speech and alcohol on his breath. Defendant presented evidence of the emergency medicine physician who personally assessed plaintiff at the hospital, indicating plaintiff was clinically intoxicated upon arriving at the hospital.

    Defendant also proffered evidence by a biomechanical expert, indicating plaintiff’s multiple accounts of how he fell were inconsistent, and not plausible. And that the intoxication may have played a role in the way his body moved as the fall occurred.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Plaintiff suffered ankle fracture. His treatment included ambulance transport, emergency room, ankle surgery and 1 1/2 months of physical therapy.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $39,431.58
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: 0
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: 0
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: 0

Demands and Offers

  • Defendant §998 Offer: $15,000

Additional Notes

Per plaintiff's counsel, who spoke to jury after verdict:

The award of non economic damages was due to the fact that the jury found plaintiff to be credible and they really liked that he was upfront about his illegal marijuana use and him drinking before suffering a fall.

They also thought that the two pictures presented by the plaintiff – his ankle with staples and an X-ray showing pins and screws keeping his ankle together contributed to the non-economic damages award.

Finally, they believed that plaintiff was not going to be able to work long with this type of injury as a carpenter and they wanted to include an amount for retraining/rehabilitation. 

The other interesting fact is that I only asked the jury to award between $50k and $75k in my closing argument.   
 

Disclaimer

This is not an official court document. While the publisher believes the information to be accurate, the publisher does not guarantee it and the reader is advised not to rely upon it without consulting the official court documents or the attorneys of record in this matter who are listed above.

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