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Florida Verdicts

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Unsecured storm drain cover caused ankle, knee injuries, walker claimed

Amount:

$412,650

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

Florida

Venue:

Orange County

Court:

Orange County Circuit Court, 9th

Injury Type(s):

ankle-fracture (trimalleolar fracture); other-physical therapy; other-hardware implanted; surgeries/treatment-open reduction; surgeries/treatment-internal fixation

Case Type:

Government - Counties; Worker/Workplace Negligence; Slips, Trips & Falls - Trip and Fall; Dangerous Condition of Public Property

Case Name:

Sandra J. Willis v. Orange County Board of County Commissioners, No. 2014-CA-2230-O

Date:

April 11, 2016

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Sandra Willis (Female, 62 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Chad S. Lucas; Morgan & Morgan; Orlando, FL, for Sandra Willis

Defendant(s):

Orange County Board of County Commissioners

Defense Attorney(s):

G. Clay Morris; Dean Ringers, Morgan & Lawton, P.A.; Orlando, FL, for Orange County Board of County Commissioners

Insurer(s):

self-insured for Orange County Board of County Commissioners ($200,000 policy limit.)

Facts:

On May 26, 2013, plaintiff Sandra Willis, 62, a cardiac catheter nurse, tripped over a storm drain cover. Willis claimed injuries to her ankle and knee. Willis sued the Orange County Board of County Commissioners for negligence in maintaining the safety of the drain covers, as they were the public entity with a duty to maintain storm drain covers. Willis' counsel claimed that Willis was heading home after walking her dog near the sidewalk on county property on Harbor Heights Circle in Orlando when she stepped on a circular storm drain cover. Willis claimed the storm drain cover flipped over and that her left leg went into the storm drain, became stuck, while her right ankle snapped. Plaintiff's counsel claimed that Orange County employees were the last known individuals to remove the storm drain cover less than two months prior to the incident, when they were cleaning storm drains. Willis' counsel further claimed that the employees did not place the storm drain cover back properly at that time. Defense counsel argued that the storm drains had been cleaned out two months prior to the accident and that the storm drains were put back properly. Further, the defense argued that someone else, not an employee of Orange County, removed the storm drain cover and did not put it back correctly.

Injury:

Willis was placed in an ambulance and transported to Orlando Regional Medical Center. Willis sustained a trimalleolar fracture of the right ankle and a medial meniscus tear of the left knee. She underwent open reduction internal fixation surgery with the placement of plates and screws to repair the ankle fracture and followed up with a course of physical therapy. Willis' hardware was removed over the course of two, separate surgeries. Willis underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair the meniscus tear on December 31, 2013. Willis was able to return to her employment as a nurse in a different capacity. Willis claims to still have swelling and minor limitations in her everyday life. Willis sought recovery for past/future pain and suffering. Defense counsel did not argue against Willis' injuries.

Result:

The jury found the Orange County Board of County Commissioners 50 percent liable and Willis 50 percent. The jury awarded Willis $412,650 reduced to $167,504 after comparative negligence set-offs.

Sandra Willis: $150,749 Personal Injury: Past Medical Cost; $111,901 Personal Injury: Past Lost Earnings Capability; $150,000 Personal Injury: Past Pain And Suffering

Actual Award:

$167,504

Trial Information:

Judge:

Keith White

Demand:

$200,000

Offer:

$1,000

Trial Length:

3  days

Trial Deliberations:

3  hours

Jury Vote:

Unanimous

Jury Composition:

6 females

Post Trial:

This matter is on appeal.

Editor's Comment:

This report is based on information provided by plaintiff's and defense counsel.