verdicts and settlements
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Date of Verdict:

Aug. 21.

Court and Case No.:

C.P. Philadelphia No. 120401846.

Judge:

Marlene Lachman.

Type of Action:

Trip and fall.

Injuries:

Hematoma; aggravation of pre-existing conditions.

Plaintiffs Counsel:

Lee D. Rosenfeld and Matthew Y. Rong, Messa & Associates, Philadelphia.

Defense Counsel:

Andrew Fylypovych and Andrew J. Fuga, Burns White, West Conshohocken, Pa.

Plaintiffs Expert:

Andres J. Calderon, biomedical engineering, Malvern, Pa.

Defense Expert:

David H. Fleisher, engineer, Ambler, Pa.

Comment:

According to a pretrial memorandum from the plaintiffs, on Aug. 31, 2010, Robert Smith was treated at the renal department of the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. When he exited the building, his foot caught on an elevated expansion joint, and he fell on his right side. The fall allegedly caused a hematoma and a general downturn in his health condition.

Smith and additional plaintiff Virginia Smith sued the trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, alleging that the elevation joint was a defect.

The plaintiffs’ memo noted that biomedical expert Andres J. Calderon said the defect caused Smith’s fall, and that, because the center sees a large population of people with difficulty walking, the floor in the medical center needed to be flat to minimize the likelihood of trips and falls.

The plaintiffs’ memo contended that the floor should have been constructed with a “uniform, flush and fair” surface along the elevation joints.

Smith was treated at the hospital’s emergency room, the memo said. He sustained a right thigh hematoma, and was reported to have elevated creatinine levels, which caused his mental status to devolve to the point where he was unable to answer questions, the memo said. Smith also sustained a drop in blood pressure, along with worsening aortic stenosis and severe mitral regurgitation, the memo said.

A central venous dialysis catheter was placed in his neck to treat the creatinine levels, according to the memo. Although the blood in the machine coagulated and the dialysis was disrupted, the creatinine levels decreased and his mental status improved, the memo said.

Smith stayed at the hospital for two weeks before he was discharged to inpatient acute rehabilitation. He was later discharged home, where he was taken care of by Holy Redeemer Home Care for two months. He also treated with two cardiovascular physicians.

Smith was readmitted to the University of Pennsylvania medical center in September 2011 with acute renal failure, pneumonia, severe aortic stenosis and other ailments. He was also noted to be unable to walk any distance, and required the use of a cane to walk.

The plaintiffs’ memo asserted that, although Smith had previously been treating for various conditions, including atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure, chronic airway obstruction, bipolar disorder, abnormality of gait and anemia, his condition had been under control before the fall. The plaintiffs’ memo also said that Smith had been involved in a pilot drug program that allowed him to stop treating with dialysis, and that he had been able to walk on his own prior to the fall.

The defendants, in their pretrial memo, argued that there was no defect in the “essentially brand new tile floor,” and noted that no medical expert attributed the Smith’s downturn in health to the August 2010 fall.

“This is most likely because no medical expert can provide any medical basis to causally relate any of Mr. Smith’s medical conditions to his very minor fall of August 31, 2010,” the memo said.

The memo also noted that Virginia Smith had said that, when Robert Smith fell, the white sneakers he was wearing “flew” off his foot. She also estimated that the depression in the joint was a half-inch, the memo said.

The defendants also contended that the defect was trivial, and that they were entitled to summary judgment on the issue.

The jury returned a defense verdict.

Lee D. Rosenfeld of Messa & Associates did not return a call for comment.

Max Mitchell can be contacted at 215-557-2354 or mmitchell@alm.com. Follow him on Twitter @MMitchellTLI.