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Plaintiff claimed she was hurt while freeing trapped repairman






New York


Erie County


Erie Supreme

Injury Type(s):

back-herniated disc (herniated disc at L5-S1);

Case Type:

Worker/Workplace Negligence – Negligent Repair

Case Name:

Colleen Schmidt v. Orville Appliance Inc.,
No. 7146/10


May 8, 2013



Colleen Schmidt (Female, 47 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Bradley D. Marble;
Brown Chiari LLP;
Colleen Schmidt ■ Nelson E. Schule Jr.;
Brown Chiari LLP;
Colleen Schmidt

Plaintiff Expert(s):

James Egnatchik;
West Seneca,
NY called by
Bradley D. Marble, Nelson E. Schule Jr. ■ Ronald Reiber;
NY called by
Bradley D. Marble, Nelson E. Schule Jr. ■ William Kuehnling;
Family Medicine;
NY called by
Bradley D. Marble, Nelson E. Schule Jr.


Orville’s Appliance Inc.

Defense Attorney(s):

H. Ward Hamlin Jr.;
Brown & Kelly, LLP;
Orville’s Appliance Inc.

Defendant Expert(s):

Mary Orrange;
Vocational Assessment;
NY called by
H. Ward Hamlin Jr. ■ Melvin Brothman;
Orthopedic Surgery;
NY called by
H. Ward Hamlin Jr. ■ Patrick Hughes;
Orchard Park,
NY called by
H. Ward Hamlin Jr.


OneBeacon Insurance Group


On Aug. 11, 2009, plaintiff Colleen Schmidt, 47, a house cleaner, worked at a residence that was located in Elma. During the course of the day, the home’s refrigerator was serviced by a repairman. The repair necessitated the removal of one of the refrigerator’s doors. The door, whose weight approached 100 pounds, fell, struck and toppled the repairman, and landed on the repairman. Schmidt freed the repairman by lifting the door. She claimed that she sustained an injury of her back. Schmidt sued the repairman’s employer, Orville’s Appliance Inc. She alleged that her injury was a result of Orville’s Appliance’s failure to provide a proper work crew to perform the repair. She also alleged that the repairman was negligent in the manner in which he performed the repair. Schmidt claimed that, after having removed the refrigerator’s door, the repairman placed it on a wooden block that was resting on a floor mat. She claimed that the mat later shifted beneath the repairman’s feet, causing the door to fall. Schmidt’s counsel contended that the repairman failed to properly secure the door. They also contended that the repair could not have been safely performed by a single repairman. They contended that a second repairman should have been assigned to the job. Schmidt’s claim was based on the doctrine of danger invites rescue. Her counsel contended that Schmidt reasonably believed that the repairman required urgent assistance. However, defense counsel contended that the repairman was not in danger, that the repairman could have freed himself and that Schmidt could not have reasonably believed that the repairman’s life was in immediate peril. Defense counsel also contended that the repair could have been properly performed by a single worker.


After some three weeks had passed, Schmidt presented to a chiropractor. She claimed that she was suffering pain that stemmed from her back. She underwent minor treatment. Schmidt ultimately claimed that she sustained a herniation of her L5-S1 intervertebral disc. The herniation was deemed an extrusion–which is the most severe form of a herniation–with a sequestered fragment: material that has broken off of a herniated disc. In February 2010, Schmidt underwent a microdiscectomy, which involved the excision of a portion of her herniated disc. Schmidt claimed that she suffers residual pain and limitations that prevent her resumption of work. She also claimed that additional surgery is necessary. Schmidt sought recovery of future medical expenses, a total of $417,753 for past and future lost earnings, and unspecified damages for past and future pain and suffering. Defense counsel contended that Schmidt underwent merely minor surgery and that additional surgery is not likely. The defense’s vocational-rehabilitation expert submitted a report in which he opined that Schmidt can work about 20 hours a week and earn $8 to $9 an hour.


The parties negotiated a pretrial settlement. Orville’s Appliance’s insurer agreed to pay $900,000, which included $400,000 for Schmidt’s lost earnings and $500,000 for Schmidt’s pain and suffering.

Trial Information:


Joseph R. Glownia

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s counsel. Defense counsel did not respond to the reporter’s phone calls.