New Jersey Verdicts

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Malfunctioning revolving door caused leg fracture: plaintiff

Amount:

$337,000

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

New Jersey

Venue:

Burlington County

Court:

Burlington County Superior Court

Injury Type(s):

leg-fracture (fracture, femur);
leg-shortened; other-comminuted fracture; arterial/vascular-embolism; arterial/vascular-deep vein thrombosis; pulmonary/respiratory

Case Type:

Premises Liability – Door Accidents; Products Liability – Automatic Door; Premises Liability – Res Ipsa Loquitur, Dangerous Condition, Negligent Repair and/or Maintenance

Case Name:

Marlene King v. Resorts International Holding LLC, Colony Capital LLC, RAC Atlantic City Holdings LLC, Gomes Gaming Inc., and Horton Automatics,
No. BUR-L-3339-11

Date:

July 18, 2014

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Marlene King (Female, 63 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Roy D. Curnow;
Law Office of Roy D. Curnow;
Spring Lake,
NJ,
for
Marlene King

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Wayne Nolte;
Ph.D.;
Engineering;
Hazlet,
NJ called by
Roy D. Curnow

Defendant(s):

Gomes Gaming Inc., 

Horton Automatics, 

Colony Capital LLC, 

RAC Atlantic City Holdings LLC, 

Resorts International Holding LLC

Defense Attorney(s):

Richard T. Barth;
Dempster & Haddix;
Mount Laurel,
NJ,
for
Resorts International Holding LLC ■ None Reported;

for
Gomes Gaming Inc., Colony Capital LLC, RAC Atlantic City Holdings LLC ■ Zachary J. Ballard;
Salmon, Ricchezza, Singer & Turchi LLP;
Sewell,
NJ,
for
Horton Automatics

Defendant Expert(s):

David Guido;
Engineering;
Edison,
NJ called by
Richard T. Barth

Insurer(s):

American International Group Inc. for Resorts International Holding LLC

Facts:

On Oct. 23, 2009, plaintiff Marlene King, 63, was exiting Resorts International Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City when the automatic revolving door she was passing through stopped and started suddenly, knocking King to the floor, and then struck her again when the automatic mechanism reactivated. King suffered a leg injury. King sued the owners and operators of the resort, Resorts International Holding LLC, Colony Capital LLC, RAC Atlantic City Holdings LLC, and Gomes Gaming Inc., for negligence. Among this group the only viable defendant was Resorts International Holding LLC and the others were granted voluntary dismissals. The lawsuit alleged that Resorts International allowed a dangerous condition to exist by its failure to properly maintain the automatic revolving door. Also named as a defendant was the manufacturer and distributor of the door, Horton Automatics Inc., alleging a product liability claim. The claim against Horton Automatics was settled for an undisclosed sum prior to the engagement of expert witnesses relative to the product liability claim. The case proceeded to trial as to Resorts International. The revolving door included several sensors intended to recognize when a pedestrian is walking through the doorway and to control the door’s movement to allow the pedestrian to walk through in a safe manner. King contended that Resorts International failed to maintain the doorway pursuant to the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance procedures, resulting in erratic operation. King testified that while she was in the revolving door, the door stopped and then restarted suddenly, striking her in the buttocks and knocking her down. While she was on the floor the door resumed its revolution, striking her again. King’s liability expert, who opined that the door’s sensors were not functioning properly on account of a failure to properly maintain them, was barred from testifying because the court determined he was offering a net opinion. Plaintiff had to proceed on a res ipsa loquitur theory of liability. The defense maintained that King caused the accident when she stopped walking at the last five inches of the doorway’s passage, which is outside the zone of the door’s sensors. The defense called a liability expert who testified that the sensors were functioning properly at the time of the accident, and if King had not stopped in the doorway, she would not have been knocked down. Over plaintiff’s objection, defense counsel was allowed to make an "empty chair" argument to the jury in summation. Defense counsel used an empty chair as a prop and pointed to it while arguing that if there was anything wrong with the door the jury should hold the door’s manufacturer liable for the mishap because Resorts International had no way of knowing of the existence of a dangerous condition created when a person passing through its doorway simply stops walking in the last five inches of the passageway where the sensors don’t function. The jury was given a special verdict form that allowed for them to consider the negligence of both the plaintiff and the door’s manufacturer as well as that of Resorts International and the jury was given a products liability charge.

Injury:

King claimed she suffered a comminuted fracture of her left distal femur just above the knee. She was hospitalized on the night of the accident and underwent open reduction surgery on Oct. 25, 2009. Following surgery, King developed a pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis requiring the surgical insertion of an IVC filter. King’s left leg is now one-half inch shorter than her right leg. She still complains of residual pain and an inability to stand for other than short periods. She testified that this impacts her ability to cook for herself and perform household chores. King requires a walker to ambulate and claims she is unable to take showers without assistance. She also claims that she is unable to drive. King sought compensatory damages for pain and suffering, experienced and expected, based on her claimed permanent injuries and past medical expenses.

Result:

The jury found that Resorts International’s negligence was 65 percent of the proximate cause of the accident. Comparative negligence of 35 percent was attributed to King. No negligence was found on the part of the door’s manufacturer. The jury returned a gross damage award of $337,000, consisting of $250,000 for damages and $87,000 for medical expenses. The court molded the damages award aspect of the verdict to reflect the plaintiff’s comparative negligence, reducing it to $219,050. Resorts International Holding was self-insured to $100,000, and over this amount was insured by American International Group Inc.

Actual Award:

$219,050

Trial Information:

Judge:

M. Patricia Richmond

Trial Length:

5
 days

Trial Deliberations:

2
 hours

Jury Vote:

6-0

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s counsel. Defense counsel declined to contribute.