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A $2.6 million settlement has been reached in the case of a 63-year-old woman whose trip and fall over a pallet in a Montgomery County grocery store allegedly led to a debilitating and incurable nerve injury. Sandra Moser of East Norriton, Montgomery County, was shopping at a Giant Food supermarket in Blue Bell on March 31, 2005, when she fell over an empty pallet left by a new employee at the end of an aisle and between two cases, according to the plaintiff’s pretrial memorandum. Prior to the fall, Moser worked full time as a bookkeeper for an automotive business, but after the fall and injury to her right lower leg, she developed an ulceration in the muscle tissue of her leg that went down to the bone and required surgery and a skin graft to close the wound, according to court papers. Moser was diagnosed with reflex sympathetic dystrophy – a permanent nerve injury that results in aggressive pain levels that can be caused by even low-level stimuli like the touch of cloth or the movement of air – and was no longer able to work, according to court papers. The Moser v. Giant Food Stores settlement was reached last week in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court in front of Judge Sandra Mazer Moss. Michael O. Pansini of Pansini & Mezrow, Moser’s attorney, said his goal in the case was to make sure that Moser was taken care of for the rest of her life, despite the perception that the loss of quality of life for an active woman in her 60s isn’t worth as much recovery as the loss of quality of life for a person in her 20s. “What is so satisfying about the settlement is the fact she’s almost 64 years old,” Pansini said. “My goal was to make sure she’s taken care of for the rest of her life.” Moser’s treatments included surgery on her leg at the Bryn Mawr Hospital Wound Center; surgical implantation of spinal cord stimulators; a quasi-surgical procedure to implant lumbar sympathetic blocks that inject painkillers; acupuncture; and 25 different narcotics and painkillers, according to court papers. “It’s sort of unrelenting pain,” Pansini said. “All that you can hope for is a decrease in that level of pain. It’s never ‘cured.’” The plaintiffs argued that Giant Food and its corporate owners were liable for Moser’s injuries because of the standard industry practice to attract the gaze of customers to eye-level displays and thus the grocer was even more responsible for keeping its sales floor clear of objects that customers could trip over, according to the plaintiff’s pretrial memorandum. Giant Food, however, argued in its defense pretrial memorandum that while the pallet should not have been on the sales floor, Moser bore comparative negligence because “the pallet presented an open and obvious condition of which the plaintiff should have observed and avoided.” Pansini countered in an interview that the pallet should not have been left in the middle of the grocery store behind an object that blocked the pallet’s visibility. The defense also argued in its pretrial memorandum that its expert witness, Dr. Wilhelmina Korevaar, opined that Moser did not develop RSD because of her fall but that her leg injury was a pressure sore originating from diabetic neuropathy. Pansini said he was looking forward to cross-examining Korevaar during a trial originally scheduled to start this week because her opinion was the only one from several doctors from the plaintiff’s side that said Moser’s injury was from a pressure sore that developed in the same area as she suffered a fall-related injury. The defense also said in its memorandum it conducted surveillance of Moser within a two-week time frame going on a road trip to Potter County, a casino, driving and sometimes not using her cane, according to court papers. Pansini said that during 20 days of surveillance, Moser did not leave her home for the vast majority of the time. He said he would have utilized the defense’s surveillance to prove that Moser was limited in what she could do because of the RSD. Key plaintiff’s experts included Dr. Steven Mandel, Moser’s neurologist and a clinical professor of neurology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, and Dr. John J. Park, a pain specialist at Graduate Pain Center, Pansini said. The defendants are self-insured up to $2 million, the defense pretrial memorandum said. David S. Wolf of Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin declined comment about the settlement. Pansini praised Wolf and Wolf’s co-counsel William Banton’s defense work on the case. Pansini also praised the roles of Moss and of former state Supreme Court Justice Russell Nigro, who mediated the case Jan. 22, in settling the case. The defense initially offered $400,000 and increased its offer three times to $1 million, $1.4 million and $2.2 million, Pansini said. Steven Mezrow, also of Pansini & Mezrow, assisted in the case.

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