A 58-year-old Farmington woman who had left shoulder surgery and left knee surgery after falling from a raised escalator in a J.C. Penney at the West Farms Mall has settled her case for $650,000.
Attorneys for Christine Seholm said she was shopping at the mall in June 2013 when she fell on a raised platform of the upper part of the escalator. According to Larry Adler, Seholm’s attorney, his client “fell hard.”
“Although she did not fall down the entire escalator, she went straight down from where she was standing,” Adler said. “She fell mostly on her hands and knees, causing serious damage.”
A lawsuit was filed in Hartford Superior Court in April 2015 and moved to the U.S. District Court in the District of Connecticut, at the request of J.C. Penney, the following month.
While J.C. Penney said in court papers that Seholm should have been more careful, Adler, owner/member of East Hartford-based Adler Law Group, said the large chain department store and the construction company that did the work were to blame.
“There was a wet floor caution sign, but the floor was not wet,” which led to confusion on the part of Seholm, Adler said Thursday. “My client thought the floor was wet so she shuffled her feet as to not slip on anything. But, instead, there was a raised platform in which they were working. There was a cone they put in place, but that covered the raised platform and blocked her view.”
The company, though, put the blame squarely on Seholm. In court papers, J.C. Penney said Seholm “did not exercise ordinary caution and prudence for her own safety, nor did she exercise the care and prudence that a reasonable person in the plaintiff’s position would have exercised.” J.C. Penney’s amended answer to the lawsuit continued: “To the extent plaintiff alleges the defendant breached its duty to warn plaintiff, the alleged dangerous condition was open and obvious and defendant was not required to provide plaintiff with any warning.”
J.C. Penney and Boston, Massachusetts-based KSA Commercial Construction Corp. eventually agreed to settle Tuesday for $650,000. But, Adler said, the negotiations were long and detailed.
J.C. Penney, Adler said, tried to make the point that many of Seholm’s injuries were due to pre-existing injuries. Adler said he brought on doctors who said Seholm’s injuries to her left shoulder, both knees, and lumbar spine were directly related to the escalator fall.
“We had to overcome the liability arguments,” Adler said of the biggest challenge in the case. “We had to make sure our doctors were best able to clarify what was new and different with regard to our client’s injuries. That can be tricky for a client that has pre-existing conditions on the same body parts.”
Seholm incurred $209,434 in medical expenses, Adler said.
J.C. Penney and KSA agreed that Selective Insurance, the carrier for KSA, would pay the settlement. The money will be available by Monday, Adler said.
J.C. Penney and KSA were represented by Ryan Sullivan of Hamden-based Esty & Buckmir. Sullivan declined to comment Thursday.
Assisting Adler on the case was associate William Wynne.