Carmen Correa v. John Moneymaker, et al.: A New Britain woman who fell on ice outside of a hair salon, broke her leg, had two surgeries and now walks with a cane and a permanent limp has settled her lawsuit for $480,000.
Carmen Correa, 57, went to get her hair done at Obsessions Beauty Salon on West Main Street in New Britain at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 18, 2011.
Her lawyer, Keith Trantolo, of Trantolo & Trantolo in Hartford, said the woman entered the salon but soon realized that she did not want to leave her new coat inside and exposed to the strong fumes that emanate from hair-styling and nail care products. So she left the building again, to take the coat back to her car. Correa stepped off of the curb, and slipped on ice. Her left femur — the upper bone in the leg — snapped in half. Trantolo said it was an ugly break, with the injured leg bending out to the side.
A hairdresser called 911 and then called Correa’s daughter, Cindy. The hairdresser was friends with Cindy, who arrived and went to the hospital with her mother. Carmen Correa needed immediate surgery for the fracture.
Trantolo said Correa’s son came back the next day to take pictures. “Pictorial evidence obtained the day after the fall demonstrated the ice had accumulated dirt, cigarette butts and other debris, indicating the ice had been there for some time prior to the plaintiff’s fall,” said Trantolo.
Trantolo said the owner of the strip mall where the salon was located, John Moneymaker, regularly hired a company, Patriot Property Maintenance, to perform now and ice removal. Also, under terms of their leases, business owners were responsible for snow and ice removal on the sidewalks in front of their stores. What would happen, though, is that the businesses would push the snow and ice back into the parking lot after the plow had already come through.
“There was a serious problem with ice at this property,” said Trantolo. “The ice was so full of dirt and cigarette butts, it indicates it had been there for quite some time. [Moneymaker] had the option to call the [plowing company] back and he didn’t.”
Trantolo filed a negligence claim on Correa’s behalf. Because the ice was noticeably dirty and old, and because Moneymaker owns and works at a self-service laundry at the same strip mall, the attorney argued that notice of a hazard had been clearly established. Trantolo said Moneymaker should have told shop owners not to push their snow back into the lot, and that he should have called the plowing company back to remove the accumulated snow and ice.
Trantolo said Correa endured a tremendous amount of pain and suffering with her broken leg. After an initial surgery, she spent 107 days at a rehabilitation facility in Farmington. However, the bone didn’t heal properly; the upper leg was bent at a 25-degree angle from the knee.
Correra’s own physician then referred her to Dr. Bruce Browner, at the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Connecticut Health Center. He said this well-respected doctor typically takes problem cases.
Browner performed a second surgery. Hardware from the initial operation was removed, and the femur was cut and then rotated so it would heal at a better angle. Afterward, Correa had to go to 88 physical therapy sessions.
After 22 months of treatment, Browner assessed the woman with a 25 percent permanent partial disability rating. Though the second surgery helped, Correa still needs a cane to get around.
Trantolo said his client also ended up with a left leg that’s a half-inch shorter than her right leg, so she also needs special footwear with custom-made soles. He said it’s difficult for her to manage the stairs in her building, as she lives on the second floor of a three-family home. “She’s in great spirits for what she’s dealt with,” said Trantolo. “She’s left with knee-knock that’s permanent.”
The plaintiff’s total medical bills were $172,615. There was no claim for lost wages or lost earning capacity as Correra was unemployed at the time of the injury.
Moneymaker was defended by Alan Chandler from the Law Offices of David J. Mathis in Hartford. Chandler did not respond to an interview request.
Trantolo noted that Correa had already had a knee replacement in her left leg. He said the artificial joint held up despite the femur fracture. Trantolo said the defense tried to argue that the artificial knee joint was a major factor in the severity of Correa’s injury. However, he said Browner disputed that assertion, opining that her injury had nothing to do with the knee replacement.
The case went to mediation before Richard C. Mahoney, of Kenny, Brimmer & Mahoney in Wethersfield. At a one-day mediation session, the two sides recently came to a $480,000 settlement agreement. Trantolo said Moneymaker will pay $460,000 and his plowing service, Patriot Property Maintenance, will pay $20,000. Moneymaker had brought Patriot Property Maintenance into the case in an attempt to reduce his own liability.
Trantolo believes that if Correa had been employed at the time of her accident, she could have recovered more money. However, the attorney said, she was happy not to go to trial. “She had the strength for trial, but was elated that it didn’t have to go there,” Trantolo said.•