Williams v. IBS Communications

Defense Verdict

Date of Verdict: Oct. 25.

Court and Case No.: C.P. Montgomery No. 2013-26656.

Judge: Steven C. Tolliver

Type of Action: Premisis liability, slip-and-fall.

Injuries: Knee, shoulder injuries.

Plaintiffs Counsel: Justin K. Youkey, Spear, Greenfield, Richman & Weitz; Philadelphia.

Plaintiffs Expert: Evan Crain,  orthopedic surgery; Newark, Delaware.

Defense Counsel:  Eamon C. Merrigan; Goldberg, Miller & Rubin; Philadelphia.

Defense Expert: Evan Kovalsky, orthopedic surgery; Norristown.

Comment:

On Feb. 9, 2012, plaintiff Wanda Williams, a part-time custodian in her early 50s, parked her car in the parking lot of IBS Communications Inc., in Wyndmoor. She was an independent contractor who performed custodial services at the company. As Williams exited her car, she slipped on black ice and braced herself with her right arm. As she regained her footing, she slipped again and fell on her knees. She suffered a right-shoulder rotator-cuff injury.

Williams sued IBS Communications and property-owner DAB LLC, alleging that they were negligent for failing to remediate the ice from the parking lot.

Williams maintained that the entire parking lot was covered in black ice. Her counsel faulted the companies for failing in their duties to ensure that the ice had been appropriately addressed.

On cross-examination, Williams testified that she had left her home in Delaware at 3 a.m. to drive to work, at which time there was wintry mixture of rain and freezing rain, and she had to clear the ice off her car. The wintry mix continued throughout her 45-minute commute to Wyndmoor, which required her to use her windshield wipers, according to Williams.

Williams further testified on cross-examination that, by the time she arrived at work, before 4 a.m., there was no one in the parking lot, and the lot did not appear to be icy.

At the conclusion of Williams’ case in chief, IBS Communications and DAB motioned for a compulsory non-suit, arguing that it was not reasonable for Williams to expect to have the parking lot clear of ice, primarily because it was 4 a.m. when she arrived, and rain and freezing rain were ongoing at that time.

Four to six hours later, Williams, complaining of pain to her right (dominant) shoulder and both knees, presented to an emergency room, where she was diagnosed with contusions to those areas. Her arm was placed in a sling and she was discharged.

In the ensuing weeks, Williams presented to her primary care physician with continuing shoulder pain. She was referred to an orthopedic surgeon, who via an MRI, diagnosed a full-thickness tear of the right supraspinatus tendon,which is part of the rotator cuff. She was given pain medications.

Williams continued to work in the following months, until her surgery in May, when she received an arthroscopy to her right shoulder to repair the tendon. She then treated with home exercises and followed up with her orthopedic surgeon. No further treatment was rendered, and she sought to recover a medical lien of $7,327.84.

Williams’ orthopedic surgeon testified that she had a good prognosis and a good result from the surgery; however, she would always have some weakness and a lack of strength in her shoulder. Even though she has a normal range of motion, she is to avoid overhead lifting, the physician concluded.

Williams testified that she could not return to her job as a custodian and was forced to close her business. She sought no damages for lost earnings. Nevertheless, Williams was able to return to her full-time job as a certified nursing assistant.

According to Williams, she enjoyed cooking but has trouble picking up heavier pots and pans with her right arm, as she feels a jolt of pain when she does so. She has difficulty performing household duties like cleaning and doing laundry. Williams sought damages for past and future pain and suffering.

Because of the court’s granting IBS Communications and DAB’s motion for compulsory nonsuit, the defense did not call its expert in orthopedic surgery.

The court granted defendants’ motion for compulsory nonsuit.

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiffs and defense counsel.

—This report first appeared in VerdictSearch, an ALM publicaiton.