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Pennsylvania Verdicts

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Plaintiff: Trip, fall on step-down sidewalk caused blindness

Amount:

$4,035,329

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

Pennsylvania

Venue:

York County

Court:

York County Court of Common Pleas

Injury Type(s):

eye-corneal transplant; other-cornea, blunt trauma; sensory/speech-blindness, total; sensory/speech-blindness, one eye; arterial/vascular-hemorrhage; mental/psychological-emotional distress

Case Type:

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

Case Name:

William Waite v. Argento Family Partnership, No. 2013-SU-2120-71

Date:

March 17, 2017

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

William Waite (Male, 79 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Craig R. Milsten; Katherman Briggs & Greenberg LLP; York, PA, for William Waite

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Shalom Kelman; M.D.; Neuro-ophthalmology; Baltimore, MD called by: Craig R. Milsten ■ Richard Lanning; M.D.; Ophthalmology; York, PA called by: Craig R. Milsten ■ Lawrence Dinoff; A.I.A.; Architecture; Lancaster, PA called by: Craig R. Milsten

Defendant(s):

Argento Family Partnership

Defense Attorney(s):

Barry A. Kronthal; Margolis Edelstein; Camp Hill, PA, for Argento Family Partnership

Defendant Expert(s):

Robert Illo; Engineering; Mountville, PA called by: Barry A. Kronthal

Insurer(s):

Millers Mutual Group

Facts:

On July 3, 2012, plaintiff William Waite, 79, tripped and fell on East Prospect Road, in York, rendering him completely blind. Waite had been exiting a three-store shopping center at 2861 E. Prospect Road when he lost his footing on a single step. The drop in elevation (5.5 inches) caused him to stumble and fall onto the pavement, striking the left side of his face and rupturing his left eye. He had already been blind in his right eye, for 40 years. Waite sued property-owner Argento Family Partnership, alleging that it was negligent for allowing a dangerous condition to exist. The single step had been created in the late 1980s or early '90s, after an addition had been put on the property. Instead of grading up 5 inches, a step was installed, Waite's counsel noted, and referred to photographs of the step. Waite's expert in architecture, in citing the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), maintained that the drop-off in elevation required a handrail, a warning sign, texturing in the concrete, or a contrast in surface color (e.g., painting a yellow line). One of these modifications would have made the sidewalk safer, the expert asserted. A store employee, who witnessed Waite's fall, testified that he too had fallen from the step, and had seen pedestrians stumble on previous occasions. Argento's counsel maintained that there had not been any falls on the step it had existed. Argento's counsel disputed the store employee's testimony, since the employee testified in his deposition that he had not previously see any falls. Argento's expert in engineering opined that the single step accorded with ASTM standards, and the fact the sidewalk contrasted in color with the adjacent parking lot was sufficient.

Injury:

Waite was taken by ambulance to a hospital, then transferred to another hospital, with specialized eye care, in Baltimore, Md. The next day, he had surgery to stabilize his left eye and drain fluid from hemorrhaging. A week-and-a-half later, he underwent another surgery in which pieces of broken retina were removed and a specialized oil was injected. Despite the procedures, Waite's vision was not restored. A corneal transplant to improve his vision a year-and-a-half post-accident was also unsuccessful. No further treatment was rendered, and he sought to recover $35,329 in medical costs. Waite's longtime ophthalmologist discussed his vision before and after the accident. The physician testified that, prior to the fall, Waite, only being able to see with his right eye, had adequate depth perception and was able to drive, golf, and perform all activities of daily living. Waite's expert in neuro-ophthalmology outlined Waite's injury and treatment, and concluded that he is permanently and totally blind. Waite testified about learning to live with his blindness. He did not leave the house often, and when he did, he relied on the assistance of his wife and family members. Shortly after the accident, his wife tied a rope from his bedroom to the bathroom to use in the middle of the night. According to Waite, he wears a baseball cap to shield his eye from bright lights, which create a whiteout effect), and relies on the cap-brim to indicate if he walks into a wall. He talked about the difficulties of eating since he does not know if there is food on the fork when placing it to his mouth (for this reason, he avoids eating in public). Waite further testified about the hardships of no longer seeing his three children, six grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren (two of whom were born post-accident). When he is with his family, it feels akin to sitting in a dark closet and listening to them from the other side of the door, Waite said. He sought damages for past and future pain and suffering. His daughter, son, and a grandchild also testified about his blindness.

Result:

The jury found that Argento Family Partnership was negligent and its negligence caused injury to Waite, who was determined to receive $4,035,329.

William Waite: $35,329 Personal Injury: Past Medical Cost; $4,000,000 Personal Injury: non-economics

Trial Information:

Judge:

Stephen P. Linebaugh

Trial Length:

4  days

Trial Deliberations:

50  minutes

Editor's Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's counsel. Defense counsel did not respond to the reporter's phone calls.