(Photo: John Disney/ALM)
An Allegheny County jury has awarded $2.1 million to a woman who tore her hamstring after slipping on a wet floor at a Target store.
After three-and-a-half days of trial and one day of deliberation before Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael Della Vecchia, the jury handed up its award to plaintiff Melissa Horton on March 10.
The verdict was divided into $1.4 million for past noneconomic damages and $700,000 in future noneconomic damages.
Horton’s attorney, Brendan Lupetin of Pittsburgh-based Meyers Evans Lupetin & Unatin, described Horton as an “exceptional plaintiff.”
In an email, Lupetin said, “Target tried to say the incident was Melissa’s fault. Obviously the jury saw otherwise and was disappointed that Target had not accepted responsibility for what happened. The jury also clearly came to understand the extent of harm that Melissa had sustained. This verdict was a just one and I am so relieved that the jury wrote a proper ending to this otherwise unfortunate story.”
Thomas P. Birris of Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin’s Pittsburgh office represented Target, and did not return a call seeking comment.
Horton was injured after slipping and falling on a recently mopped floor in an Allegheny County Target on Dec. 14, 2013, while shopping for goods for her co-workers, who were in town to produce an NFL Sunday Night Football game, according to her pretrial memorandum.
At the time Horton entered the store, a soda bottle fell from a shelf and spilled onto the main aisle in the store. Target employees eventually began mopping the area with “a wet soapy substance” and placing warning cones around the area.
Horton claimed in court papers that Target employees “carelessly mopped the floor well outside of the cordoned-off area.”
Horton walked cautiously around the spill area, but once outside slipped on “the invisible wet floor” beyond it, causing her to drop into a split, court papers said.
The resulting split ripped her right hamstring out of her hip socket, according to court papers. Horton underwent repair surgery and spent a period of her recovery time in a body brace that immobilized her right leg.
In its pretrial memorandum, Target argued that Horton failed to observe clear warnings about the wet floor.
“Despite Target’s ample warning and guarding of the spill the plaintiff walked into the area and slipped,” Target’s papers said.
Target further argued, “Therefore, the cause of this accident was plaintiff’s own negligence to not paying attention to where she was walking immediately adjacent to the spill area.”