A NYC trip and fall attorney must be ready for all scenarios, including those involving intoxicated plaintiffs. Intoxication played a role in a case where a man was severely injured when he fell down a staircase in a restaurant. The staircase had no upper landing. Only a door separated the staircase from the public space. There were no eyewitnesses to the accident. The injured man also testified that he had no memory of the incident. Due to the accident, the man suffered extensive brain and spinal injuries. He sued the owner of the restaurant to recover damages for those injuries.
How Intoxication Can Impact a NYC Trip and Fall Case
The case went to trial. The NYC trip and fall attorney presented evidence which showed that the stairway was dangerous because it had no landing and the door opened inward. Employees of the restaurant testified that it was the lounge’s policy to keep the cellar door locked at all times to prevent patrons from entering the cellar. The restaurant instructed employees to lock the cellar door after using it. Evidence showed that, at the time of the accident, the door was unlocked.
Also, the restaurant had not placed warning signs on or near the cellar door. A bartender testified that he heard a loud series of thumps. These thumps apparently aligned with the plaintiff’s trip and fall down the staircase. Someone found the plaintiff laying at the bottom of the stairwell immediately after the thumping sounds.
The Jury’s Decision
The jury found that the defendant restaurant was at fault. It also found that the restaurant’s negligence caused the accident. However, the the jury also found that the plaintiff was negligent and that his conduct while intoxicated contributed to the accident. As such, the jury divided up liability. It found the plaintiff to be 75% liable and the defendant to be 25% liable. The jury awarded the plaintiff over $88,000 for past medical expenses. It did not award damages for past or future economic or non-economic loss (pain and suffering).
The NYC trip and fall attorney asked the judge to set aside the jury’s decision because the jury did not consider certain damages. The defendant opposed the motion and asked the court to dismiss the case. The defendant argued that no rational jury could have found that its actions caused the accident. The court granted the plaintiff’s request and ordered a new trial. It denied the defendant’s application for dismissal. The defendant restaurant then appealed.
The Decision on Appeal
On appeal, the Appellate Division agreed with the NYC trip and fall attorney and found that the trial court properly denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss the case. The court ruled that the motion should have only been granted if there was no rational process by which a jury could find in favor of the plaintiff. The Court pointed out that a jury verdict should not be set aside unless it could not have been reached by any fair interpretation of the evidence. The court went on to find that the evidence in this case was enough to support a finding that the defendant’s negligence caused plaintiff’s injuries.
The court also ruled that the trial court correctly ordered a new trial because the jury awarded inexplicably low damages. The jury failed to award damages beyond reimbursement of medical expenses, despite the severity and permanency of plaintiff’s injuries. This was likely due to an impermissible jury compromise. Here, incredibly, the jury did not award the plaintiff any damages for either past or future pain and suffering, or economic loss. The jury made this finding despite catastrophic injuries caused by the trip and fall. Accordingly, the Second Department upheld the lower court’s decision and remanded the case for a retrial.
The NYC trip and fall accident attorneys at The Platta Law Firm are ready to handle all premises liability cases. Our innovative and successful trial strategy can help you maximize the value of your case. If you or a loved one suffered from a NYC trip and fall accident and need an attorney, give us a call for a free consultation.