Pennsylvania Verdicts

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Customer claimed Papa John’s had dangerous rack in store

Amount:

$28,314.41

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

Pennsylvania

Venue:

Allegheny County

Court:

Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas

Injury Type(s):

arm-extensor pollicis longus tendon, tear;
other-thumb; other-adhesions; other-laceration; other-contracture; other-scar tissue; other-physical therapy; other-decreased range of motion; other-scar and/or disfigurement; epidermis-numbness; epidermis-paresthesia; hand/finger-hand; neurological-nerve damage/neuropathy (nerve damage, ulnar nerve)

Case Type:

Premises Liability – Restaurant, Failure to Warn, Dangerous Condition; Affirmative Defenses – Contributory Negligence

Case Name:

Edward D. Erkel v. Bajco LLC d/b/a Papa Johns,
No. GD-15-012959

Date:

March 27, 2018

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Edward D. Erkel (Male, 56 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Wayne M. Chiurazzi;
The Chiurazzi Law Group;
Pittsburgh,
PA,
for
Edward D. Erkel

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Christopher Schmidt; M.D.; Orthopedic Surgery; Pittsburgh,
PA called by:
Wayne M. Chiurazzi

Defendant(s):

Bajco LLC

Defense Attorney(s):

Edmond R. Joyal Jr.;
William J. Ferren & Associates;
Pittsburgh,
PA,
for
Bajco LLC

Insurer(s):

Travelers Property Casualty Corp.

Facts:

On Dec. 22, 2014, plaintiff Edward Erkel, 56, entered a Papa John’s restaurant in Pittsburgh to pick up a pre-paid pizza. According to Erkel, an employee behind the counter ignored him, then would not give him his order, putting the pizza in a box on a metal shelf behind the counter. A disagreement ensued, Erkel attempted to retrieve his order and the two engaged in a tussle. Erkel’s right hand struck the metal shelf, causing a laceration. The police responded to the incident, and Erkel was arrested and charged with simple assault. The charge was reduced to harassment with other physical contact, and Erkel pleaded guilty. The Papa John’s employee was not charged. Erkel sued Papa Johns-owner, Bajco LLC, alleging that the sharp metal rack was a dangerous condition. His counsel maintained that the business should have warned customers about it. The restaurant’s counsel denied that the metal rack was a dangerous condition, and contended that no warnings were necessary. Counsel argued that Erkel was at fault for his injuries because he entered an employee-only area. The defense cited Erkel’s admission that he had trespassed behind the counter and started the fight with the employee. The court precluded Bajco from informing the jury that Erkel had been arrested for the incident. However, the defense was able to note that Erkel had been banned from the restaurant and ordered to take anger-management classes.

Injury:

Erkel was taken by police and jailed overnight. The next day, Erkel, experiencing numbness and tingling in his right, dominant thumb, presented to a hospital and was seen by an orthopedic surgeon. The physician, via imaging studies, diagnosed a tear of the right extensor pollicis longus tendon and damage to the ulnar nerve. On Dec. 26, Erkel had surgical repair of the tendon and nerve. His thumb was placed in a splint. In the ensuing months, Erkel treated with occupational therapy and consulted with his surgeon. In June 2015, adhesions, scar tissue and a contracture had developed in his thumb, and surgery was discussed. In September, Erkel underwent surgical repair of the scar tissue and the contracture, a condition in which tissue thickens beneath the skin. He continued physical therapy through the end of the year and consulted with his surgeon. No further treatment was rendered. Erkel sought to recover $18,314.41 in stipulated medical costs. Erkel’s orthopedic surgeon causally related his injuries and treatment to the accident. According to the surgeon, Erkel continues to experience pain and a decreased sensation on the ulnar side of his thumb. The physician concluded that Erkel suffered a permanent disability. Erkel testified that he continues to experience numbness and a decreased range of motion in his thumb. He has difficulty feeling his other fingers when he grips and releases. He sought damages for disfigurement and for past and future pain and suffering. Counsel for Bajco maintained that Erkel’s injuries and treatment were the result of his own negligence.

Result:

The jury found that Erkel was 49 percent liable and Bajco was 51 percent liable. Erkel was awarded $28,314.41, which was reduced to reflect apportionment of liability to $14,440.35.

Edward D. Erkel: $18,314 Personal Injury: Past Medical Cost; $5,000 Personal Injury: past and future pain and suffering; $5,000 Personal Injury: disfigurement

Actual Award:

$14,440.35

Trial Information:

Judge:

Patrick Connelly

Trial Length:

2
 days

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s and defense counsel.