Melissa DePaulo v. Wallace Frasier: A woman who broke her foot after falling down the stairs of her apartment building has been awarded $100,000 by a Superior Court judge.
Melissa DePaulo, 31, of Meriden, was in her apartment building hallways at about 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 24, 2004 when she slipped and fell down seven stairs, according to her lawyer, George H. Charlesworth Jr., of New Haven. Charlesworth said there was no lighting in the hallway and DePaulo slipped because a rubber flap on one of the stairs was not nailed down properly.
Unable to put any pressure on her right foot, DePaulo went that night to Mid-State Medical Center in Meriden, where doctors determined that her foot was fractured.
Doctors initially gave DePaulo a walker and pain medications. At a follow-up appointment a month later, she was told to stop using the walker and to wear a hard-soled shoe. By early October 2004, doctors noticed that swelling was down in the foot. But in November, DePaulo still complained of pain and was still limping. She claimed she could work only 12 hours a week.
In December, DePaulo and her doctor decided to try a surgical procedure that placed a screw in her foot. After the surgery she was again using a walker or crutches and taking pain medications.
In January 2005, x-rays revealed that the fracture was finally healing. In June 2005, the doctor removed the screw. DePaulo then attended physical therapy five times that summer at Easter Seals Connecticut Inc.
According to her Easter Seals medical records, she did not complete the physical therapy program, and continued to walk with a limp and had pain at the spot of the surgical incision. DePaulo also claimed her foot gives out several times a day.
At a court hearing, DePaulo said she could not run around with her children anymore and needs someone to help with household chores because she had developed severe arthritis in the foot caused by the original injury. “It still locks up on me and I do fall from it,” DePaulo testified.
She said another surgery is possible. To date, her medical bills total just under $10,000.
Doctors noted that DePaulo became “morbidly obese” after the foot injury; at 5-foot-2, she now weighs 200 pounds.
Charlesworth filed a lawsuit for negligence against DePaulo’s landlord, Wallace Frasier, for neglecting to repair the step on which DePaulo slipped. Charlesworth said Frasier never hired a lawyer or responded to the lawsuit. So Charlesworth filed a motion for default judgment, which was granted and Superior Court Judge Thomas Corradino in New Haven held a hearing on damages.
Charlesworth said he sought $150,000 in damages. Judge Corradino, in a written opinion issued late last month, awarded $100,000. “It is no doubt true that this woman suffered a serious injury the treatment of which required two surgeries, use of a walker device, and fairly intensive medical treatment for approximately nine-and-a-half months,” wrote Judge Corradino.
“But it is also true that of her own volition and for no apparent or given reason, she did not continue physical therapy designed in part to improve her gait,” continued the judge. “This cannot be considered on some failure to mitigate damages theory or failure to follow medical advice theory, but it is capable of being considered to question her present claim of a problem with her gait – i.e. walking abilities.”
Charlesworth said his client “didn’t do her end of the bargain” when it came to completing physical therapy so she didn’t get everything in damages that she requested. Charlesworth said DePaulo is currently unemployed.
“She has problems walking,” said Charlesworth. “She’s better but it’s still painful.”