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Supermarket was to blame for slip on grape, shopper claimed






New Jersey


Somerset County


Somerset County Superior Court

Injury Type(s):

hip; back-annular tear; back-fusion, lumbar;
back-herniated disc (herniated disc at L5-S1);
neck-annular tear; other-plate; other-sacroiliac joint; other-hardware implanted; other-epidural injections; neurological-radiculopathy

Case Type:

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

Case Name:

Bonnie Gutierrez and Milton Gutierrez v. Stop & Shop,
No. SOM-L-1259-12


April 28, 2015



Bonnie Gutierrez (Female, 50 Years), 

Milton Gutierrez (Male)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Jeffrey Strauss;
Strauss Law Offices, LLC;
Bonnie Gutierrez, Milton Gutierrez


Stop & Shop

Defense Attorney(s):

Joseph M. Toddy;
Zarwin Baum DeVito Kaplan PC;
Stop & Shop ■ Debra A. Goldstein;
Zarwin Baum DeVito Kaplan PC;
Stop & Shop


self-insured for Stop & Shop


On Oct. 31, 2010, plaintiff Bonnie Gutierrez, 50, a teacher, alleged she slipped on a grape in a Stop & Shop supermarket in Somerset, injuring her back and hip. Gutierrez sued Stop & Shop, alleging negligence in the maintenance of the supermarket. She further alleged the negligence created a dangerous condition that caused her accident. Gutierrez maintained that she and her husband were waiting in the checkout line when she stepped into the next lane to throw an item in a wastebasket. She stepped on something slippery, which caused her to twist and fall hard. Gutierrez claimed that she and her husband saw a crushed grape on the floor. She also claimed that they saw other grapes, dust balls, and unidentified debris on the floor, and noticed that the wastebasket was overflowing. In addition, Gutierrez contended, grapes were sold elsewhere in the store in open-topped bags. Gutierrez’ counsel asked the court to allow an inference of negligence against the store, citing the 2003 New Jersey State Supreme Court case Nisivoccia v. Glass Gardens Inc. The decision in that case, which had similar underlying facts, entitled the plaintiff to an inference of negligence against a defendant store, regardless of whether the store had notice of the dangerous condition, because the store should have anticipated that careless handling of grapes was reasonably likely during customer checkout, creating a hazardous condition. Stop & Shop argued that Gutierrez was comparatively negligent, contending that the store was reasonably clean and that Gutierrez was not watching where she was walking with due care.


Gutierrez was taken by ambulance to a local emergency room with complaints of pain in her lower back and hip. She had X-rays and was discharged with instructions to follow up with an orthopedist. She was ultimately diagnosed with an annular tear, a central disc herniation at L5-S1, sacroiliac joint instability, and pain that radiated from her lower back into her buttocks and legs. To treat her pain, she was given four epidural steroid injections, three nerve blocks, and two discograms, but they did not eliminate the pain, nor did a year of physical therapy. In 2011, Gutierrez underwent a lumbar fusion with a plate and screws implanted. She required revision fusion surgery, which included using nails to stabilize the sacroiliac joint, and which in turn created instability in the lower lumbar spine. Gutierrez claimed she was unable to return to her job as a pre-school teacher because her debilitating condition caused constant pain and limitations performing activities of daily living. She cannot sit or stand for long periods without pain, nor can she bend or lift (such as when caring for children in her former occupation in child care), and she has difficulty sleeping, due to positional-change pain. She claimed she had tried medications and electrical pain stimulators with limited relief. She sought damages for past and future medical costs; past and future lost earning capacity; and past and future pain and suffering. Gutierrez’ husband, Milton Gutierrez, joined the action on a loss of consortium claim. The defense argued that Gutierrez’ injury was not caused by the accident, and that she had pre-existing lumbar disc disease.


Prior to trial, the case was settled for $950,000.

Trial Information:


Thomas Miller

Editor’s Comment:

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