MORGAN V. ASPEN SQUARE MANAGEMENT $680,400 VERDICT
PENNSYLVANIA LAW WEEKLY
Volume XXVI, Number 20
Copyright 2003 by American Lawyer Media, ALM LLC
May 19, 2003
Verdicts and Settlements
VERDICT IN NEGLIGENCE CASE
Date of Verdict: April 3, 2003.
Court and Case Number: C.P. Lackawanna, No. 4080-C of 1999.
Judge: Carmen A. Minora.
Type of Action: Negligence/Premises Liability.
Injuries: Lumbar disc herniations at L5-S1, L4-L5 laminectomies and lumbar fusion with pedicle screw fixation.
Plaintiff(s) I Attorney(s) : Donald C. Ligorio, Hourigan Kluger & Quinn, Kingston and Scranton.
Defense Attorney(s) : James Fryling, Connor Riley & Fryling, Erie. Plaintiff(s) Expert(s) : Lucian Bednarz, M.D., physiatry, Scranton; Mark Bell, M.D., pain management, Plains; Stephen Eisner, M.D., internal medicine, Scranton; M.A. Rahman, M.D., psychiatry, Scranton; Andrew C. Verzilli, economist, Philadelphia; Patricia A. Chilleri, C.R.C., vocational specialist, Kingston; Ruth Atherholt, R.N., life care planning, Kingston. Defendant(s) Expert(s): Stephen Wistar, meteorologist, State College.
Lorraine Morgan brought a negligence and premises liability suit against Aspen Square Management Inc., the management company responsible for maintaining the premises at the Summit Pointe Apartment complex, following a slip and fall accident that yielded several injuries.
Overnight, Jan. 2 to 3, 1999, a freezing rain and ice storm deposited between one half and one and a half inches of snow throughout the common areas of the apartment complex. The plaintiff asserted that Aspen Square's employees were aware of the icy conditions as early as 7 a.m., and that at 9:30 a.m. the maintenance superintendent sent home an extra employee, indicating that he felt that the situation was under control and that all of the common areas had been salted. However, when Morgan exited her apartment at approximately 12:30 p.m., she slipped on an icy step, causing her to twist and fall down a concrete flight of steps.
Morgan was ultimately diagnosed with lumbar disc herniations at L4-L5 and L5-S1. She underwent two lumbar laminectomies and a lumbar fusion, and continues to suffer from chronic back and leg pain. She claimed she has been unable to return to work as a customer service representative production scheduler due to her injuries.
The defense maintained that the apartment complex was not responsible for generally slippery conditions and that Morgan was contributory negligent. The defense also asserted that the case should be governed by the hills and ridges doctrine; however, the trial court judge chose not to charge the jury on this doctrine but rather on general negligence principles.
After a four-day trial and approximately four hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict in the amount of $1.134 million, with $500,000 for pain and suffering and $634,000 for past and future wage loss and medical expenses. The jury also found the defendant 60 percent responsible and the plaintiff 40 percent contributory negligent under the comparative negligence statute. As such, the verdict was molded to $680,400.
Defense counsel said a post-trial motion is pending.