Pennsylvania Verdicts

Find out about the most important recent Pennsylvania cases, selected by VerdictSearch editors. Coverage includes Allegheny, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. Subscribe to VerdictSearch Pennsylvania for access to all Pennsylvania verdictsPricing Options

Shopper at Target store slipped on puddle, claimed leg injury








Allegheny County


Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas

Injury Type(s):

leg; back-lower back; back-spasm, lumbar;
other-buttocks; other-hamstring; other-acupuncture; other-scar tissue; other-physical therapy; other-ischial tuberosity; other-epidural injections; other-avulsion (non-fracture); neurological-sciatica; arterial/vascular-hemorrhage; surgeries/treatment-decompression surgery

Case Type:

Premises Liability – Store, Failure to Warn; Slips, Trips & Falls – Slip and Fall; Premises Liability – Dangerous Condition, Negligent Repair and/or Maintenance

Case Name:

Melissa Horton v. Target Corp.,
No. GD-14-002877


March 10, 2017



Melissa Horton (Female, 43 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Brendan B. Lupetin;
Meyers Evans & Associates, LLC;
Melissa Horton

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Andrew Rentschler; Ph.D.; Biomechanical; Pittsburgh,
PA called by:
Brendan B. Lupetin ■ Michael Dillingham; M.D.; Orthopedic Surgery; Redwood City,
CA called by:
Brendan B. Lupetin


Target Corp.

Defense Attorney(s):

Thomas P. Birris;
Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, P.C.;
Target Corp.

Defendant Expert(s):

David Bizzak;
PA called by:
Thomas P. Birris ■ Jeffrey Kann;
Orthopedic Surgery;
PA called by:
Thomas P. Birris


On Dec. 14, 2013, plaintiff Melissa Horton, 43, a television sports producer, slipped and fell in a Target store, in Pittsburgh. Horton, of California, had been in Pittsburgh on assignment and had gone to the Target to buy items for herself and co-workers. As she was pushing a shopping cart through the main aisle, she walked on a wet portion of the floor, which caused her to slip. She tore her right hamstring. Horton sued Target, alleging that the store had allowed a dangerous condition to exist. Prior to the accident, a large bottle of soda had spilled on the floor, which was covered with vinyl composition tile (VCT). Employees mopped a portion of the spill with a wet, soapy substance and placed warning cones around the largest part of the spill that was not yet mopped. According to Horton, unbeknownst to her, employees had also carelessly mopped the floor outside of the cordoned-off area. After she had gotten beyond the warning cones, she encountered the invisible wet floor, which caused her to slip and injure herself. Horton’s counsel cited store records which indicated that her fall was caused by a mopped floor. A Target employee testified that he recalled Horton heeding his warnings to stay clear of the cordoned-off area, and that she at all times walked in an area that had been designated by the store as safe and free from moisture and slipperiness. Horton’s counsel maintained that employees created the dangerous condition and failed to properly warn her about its presence. Horton’s expert in biomechanics opined that Target employees had failed to properly and effectively isolate the area of the floor that posed a hazard due to the mopping that was performed to clean the soda spill. The various standards that pertain to Target’s duty to provide reasonably safe walking surfaces for pedestrians were violated, and the cause of Horton’s accident was the store’s failure to isolate the hazardous condition, the expert concluded. Target’s counsel maintained that, despite the store’s ample warning and guarding of the spill, Horton walked into the area and slipped. There was no dispute that Horton saw the spill and the warning cones and was aware that the area was in the process of being mopped. Target reasonably responded to the spill and adequately warned customers, including Horton, of its location. Therefore, the cause of the accident was Horton’s own negligence in not paying attention to where she was walking immediately adjacent to the spill area, Target asserted. According to Target’s expert in engineering, Horton’s expert’s opinions were predicated upon the critical assumption that Horton slipped and fell because the VCT flooring in the area where she fell was wet and the surface was not slip-resistant when wet. Target’s expert’s slip-resistance measurements indicated that the floor had acceptable slip-resistance when wet, and the condition of the floor surface was not the proximate cause of Horton’s fall, the expert maintained. The expert concluded that the actions of store employees in responding to the spill was reasonable, proper, and consistent with the industry standard of care.


Following the fall, Horton declined to be taken to an emergency room, and instead was given ice and anti-inflammatory medication. She continued her work duties that evening at an NFL game. On Dec. 18, Horton, upon returning to California, presented to an orthopedic surgeon with right-hamstring pain. An MRI showed a complete rupture (tear) of the hamstring tendon at the ischial tuberosity (the "sit bones" of the pelvis), which had pulled the tendon from the bone. On Jan. 7, 2014, Horton underwent a surgical repair of the right-hamstring tendon at the ischial tuberosity. She was found to have a complete avulsion. She was placed in a body brace, and recuperated at her home for a month and a half. During that time she had to pay for a nurse to sponge bathe her in bed and help her use the bathroom. During the ensuing years, Horton treated with more than 200 sessions of physical therapy. In February 2015, Horton, experiencing low-back pain, presented to a spine specialist. She underwent radiographic imaging, and was diagnosed with sciatic nerve involvement (scar tissue from the first surgery caused the sciatic nerve to become irritated), which caused back spasms and discomfort while sitting for long periods. Her physical therapy addressed the pain, and she further treated with acupuncture and epidural injections of a steroid-based painkiller. With conservative treatment unsuccessful, she had a sciatic decompression, in May 2016. Following surgery, Horton continued with physical therapy and injections, and was treating at the time of trial. Horton’s orthopedic surgeon causally related her injuries and treatment to the accident. According to the physician, the injury resulted in associated trauma and scar formation that occurred locally around her sciatic nerve, which resulted in a decompression. Despite the procedure, she was left with chronic sciatic pain. Horton testified that her injury caused her to miss out on producing multiple NFL playoff games, the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, and the Sochi Olympics (no economic damages were presented). According to Horton, who walks with a limp, she is in constant pain, has severe muscle spasms and cramps in her entire right hamstring, and has to sit on a cushion to minimize her nerve irritation. Horton sought damages for past and future pain and suffering. Target’s expert in orthopedic surgery, who examined Horton, confirmed that she had sustained a right-hamstring avulsion, and had undergone appropriate surgical intervention. The physician acknowledged that the records showed that scarring had caused irritation to the sciatic nerve, but would not say that the irritation of the nerve was related to the fall. According to the expert, the nerve itself did not appear to be injured, and so the second surgery was unrelated. However, the expert said that Horton’s surgeon’s opinion was reasonable, in that the scarring and irritation and second surgery were related.


The jury found that Target was negligent and its negligence was a factual cause of harm to Horton. Horton, who was found not negligent, was determined to receive $2.1 million.

Melissa Horton: $1,400,000 Personal Injury: Past Pain And Suffering; $700,000 Personal Injury: Future Pain And Suffering

Trial Information:


Michael A. DellaVecchia

Trial Length:


Trial Deliberations:


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.