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Plaintiff: City failed to remove problematic floor mats

Amount:

$547,128.93

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

South Carolina

Venue:

Horry County

Court:

Horry County, Court of Common Pleas

Injury Type(s):

head; head-concussion; other-physical therapy; other-vomiting/vomition; face/nose-face (face, bruise); mental/psychological-emotional distress

Case Type:

Government - Municipalities; Slips, Trips & Falls - Trip and Fall; Premises Liability - Dangerous Condition, Negligent Repair and/or Maintenance

Case Name:

Callie Barras v. City of Myrtle Beach and Alsco Inc., No. 2016CP2600135

Date:

July 5, 2017

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Callie Barras (Female, 73 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Mark Andrew Nappier; Joye, Nappier, Risher & Hardin, LLC; Inlet, SC, for Callie Barras

Defendant(s):

Alsco, Inc., 

City of Myrtle Beach

Defense Attorney(s):

Dominic A. Starr; McAngus, Goudelock & Courie, LLC; Myrtle Beach, SC, for Alsco, Inc. ■ Michael Kirk Battle; Battle Law Firm, LLC; Conway, SC, for City of Myrtle Beach

Facts:

On April 8, 2015, plaintiff Callie Barras, 73, was working as a volunteer for a bingo event at the city of Myrtle Beach's Base Recreation Center. She reportedly tripped and fell when she caught her foot under a bunched up floor mat. She struck her head on the floor. Barras claimed a concussion and facial bruising. Barras filed suit against the city of Myrtle Beach and Alsco, Inc., which provided and placed the mats in the recreation center. She alleged negligence against both defendants. Barras and Alsco settled for $20,000 prior to trial. The case proceeded against the city only. The city of Myrtle Beach owned and operated the Base Recreation Center, where Barras had volunteered for bingo events for over 10 years. Barras claimed there were rugs/mats on the floor of the recreation center and that these rugs/mats would often roll up at the ends and entangle the feet of people walking over them. Barras claimed that she, other volunteers and patrons had informed the city's agent that the subject rugs/mats were a tripping hazard, but the city declined to remove them. Barras alleged that the city was negligent and grossly negligent and that it owed a duty of care to her and others to eliminate the risks and/or warn of the dangerous condition of the rugs. She further argued that the city knew of the dangerous condition, having been warned of the problem by herself and others. The city contended that, pursuant to South Carolina's Recreational Use Statute, it was immune from liability unless there was a finding of gross negligence. The city further asserted that a third-party contractor provided and placed the rugs/mats. Moreover, the city argued that Barras was an invitee and was comparatively negligent in failing to watch where she was walking, especially in light of the fact that she was aware of the alleged hazard. The city also claimed Barras had assumed the risk of injury.

Injury:

Barras was transported to a local emergency room with signs and symptoms of a concussion, including vomiting and facial bruising. There were no fractures as a result of her fall, but she required physical therapy. Barras testified to mental anguish, as she was the caregiver for her spouse, who had suffered a head injury years prior to the underlying fall. She claimed she was scared that she had suffered the same injury as her husband and that she would be unable to care for him. Barras sought damages for medicals. She also sought damages for pain and suffering. The city disputed the nature and extent of Barras' injury.

Result:

The jury found that the city was negligent and the city's negligence was a proximate cause of Barras' injuries. The jury determined that Barras' damages totaled $547,128.93. The verdict was reduced by $20,000 for the prior settlement with Alsco, Inc., and then further reduced to $300,000 as required by the Tort Claims Act.

Actual Award:

$300,000

Trial Information:

Judge:

Larry B. Hyman Jr.

Demand:

$50,000

Offer:

$10,000

Trial Length:

3  days

Trial Deliberations:

3.5  hours

Jury Composition:

12 jurors

Post Trial:

The city filed post-trial motions, including a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and/or remittitur, and indicated there would be an appeal if the motions were denied.

Editor's Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's counsel and information gleaned from court records. Defense counsel did not respond to a request for comment.