Date of Verdict: Jan. 27.
Court and Case No.: C.P. Philadelphia No. 121101420.
Judge: Rosalyn K. Robinson.
Type of Action: Personal injury.
Injuries: Shoulder fracture, dislocation.
Plaintiffs Counsel: Susan B. Ayres, Hill & Associates, Philadelphia.
Defense Counsel: Lauren R. Clein, Thomas, Thomas & Hafer, Philadelphia.
Plaintiffs Experts: Randall N. Smith, pain medicine, Bala Cynwyd, Pa. (treating); Robert F. Sing, sports medicine, Springfield, Pa. (testifying).
Defense Expert: Andrew B. Sattel, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Bala Cynwyd, Pa.
Comment: According to the pretrial memorandum of plaintiff Abbie Butler, on Nov. 12, 2012, she was walking her dog along the sidewalk of Cottman Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia when she tripped on an alleged defect and fell to the ground. Cui Lan Dong and Benyi Zhu owned the property where Butler fell, the memo said. Butler, who was in her 60s at the time, allegedly injured her shoulder.
Butler sued Zhu, Dong and the city of Philadelphia, alleging that the defendants failed to properly maintain the sidewalk.
Butler’s memo said Zhu and Dong should have known about the defective condition of the sidewalk, and that the city was secondarily liable for the condition.
The city of Philadelphia was voluntarily dismissed before trial.
Zhu and Dong contended, in their pretrial memo, that the tenants on the property never reported any problems with the sidewalk and the city of Philadelphia did not record any complaints about the alleged defect. The defendants further argued in their memo that the condition was open and obvious, that grass was growing out of the crack in the sidewalk, that it was a clear and sunny day and that nothing was obstructing her view. The defendants also noted that Butler testified she does not look down when she walks, the defendants’ memo said.
According to Butler’s memo, after the fall she was taken by ambulance to Nazareth Hospital, where she was diagnosed with a fracture and dislocation of the dominant right shoulder. She underwent a reduction procedure to reset the shoulder and was placed in a sling.
Butler said in her memo that she was prescribed Oxycodone, which she took twice a day for three months, and treated with physical therapy four times, before she was referred to an orthopedist. The doctor, the memo said, recommended shoulder exercises to strengthen her shoulder, which she continued throughout the time of trial.
Butler contended in her memo that she required help bathing and dressing for the first two months following the surgery, she has difficulty sleeping, she performs her household chores with pain and she is unable to garden. Butler further contended that she suffers from occasional numbness in her right hand and fingers, and has suffered atrophy of the right biceps, the memo said.
Butler also argued that she will require future medical treatment, including MRIs, electromyographies, pain injections and possible surgeries, the memo said. She estimated the future medical care will cost between $20,000 and $25,000. She also claimed she incurred about $1,000 in lost wages, as well as a $2,000 medical lien, the memo said.
Butler’s medical expert opined that she will require future medical care, including multiple follow-up visits each year, possible surgery, diagnostic testing, pain injections and physical therapy.
Zhu and Dong contended in their memo that Butler’s medical treatment was limited. The defendants also disputed her lost wages, noting that she only worked two days each month.
The defendants’ orthopedic expert confirmed the shoulder fracture and dislocation, as well as the residual stiffness and limited range of motion, but contested some of the plaintiff’s expert’s findings.
Prior to trial, Zhu and Dong, who were insured by Philadelphia Contributionship, offered $24,000 and the plaintiff’s demand was reduced to $155,000, the memos from both sides said. After four days of trial, the jury found that the defendants were negligent, and that Butler was not contributorily negligent. The jury awarded Butler $200,000 in damages. Zhu was also sanctioned $5,000 for failure to appear at trial.
— Max Mitchell, of the Law Weekly