RRD Partner John F. Costa Obtains Win for Local Hospital

September 24, 2018

The plaintiff sustained a trimalleolar fracture which was complicated by multiple infections resulting in three surgeries and eight weeks of hyperbaric wound care treatment.  She claimed that the injury was a result of a defective wheelchair ramp in the hospital’s parking garage. Medical special damages of $183,000 were claimed.  Despite references in the emergency room record to the plaintiff using a cane and lifting it at the time of the fall to point to her car, as a nurse pushed her husband in a wheelchair down the ramp, the plaintiff denied she was using a cane during trial.  In addition, she denied that she had any problem ambulating at the time.  The defense showed that she had fallen earlier that year and injured her knee severely and to the extent that her orthopedist had recommended a total knee replacement.  She further conceded that she wanted to have the knee replaced at the time of the subject fall on the wheelchair ramp but did not do so because workers’ compensation refused to pay for it. 

Plaintiff did not disclose an expert on the issue of whether the wheelchair ramp was defective. Rather, plaintiff relied on photographs of the ramp and case law which arguably stood for the proposition that expert testimony is not always required. The defendant disclosed the manager of the parking garage who had previously retained an outside agency to conduct an overall safety evaluation of the parking garage. While a number of recommendations were made, the agency did not make any recommendation to revise the subject wheelchair ramp, which was identical to the ramps on several other floors.  The defense also disclosed an engineering expert who opined that the wheelchair ramp was compliant with all relevant building code regulations.

At the close of plaintiff’s case, the defense moved for a directed verdict. The court reserved decision and indicated that a decision would be rendered the following morning. The next morning, prior to the court’s decision on the defendant’s motion for a directed verdict, the plaintiff voluntarily withdrew her action.