Slip and fall injuries are sometimes characterized as minor nuisances, the subject of "frivolous lawsuits" that clog up the civil courts with litigious plaintiffs bent on fleecing shopkeepers over a minor bruise. A recent settlement in Florida highlights just how untrue this characterization is, and also illustrates the serious injuries that can result from a slip and fall in a place of business.
Stephanie Jenkins was just stopping in to buy a soda when she slipped and fell inside a convenience store in 2017 in Tallahassee. Ms. Jenkins suffered two herniated discs in her neck, a complete tear of her rotator cuff, nerve damage to her wrist, and injury to her lower spine. Over the past two and a half years, she has incurred significant medical bills. During this time, she has undergone physical therapy, pain management. spinal injections, and two surgeries. She still has not completed all medical treatment related to this injury, as she is set to have lumbar disc fusion surgery later this year.
Ms. Jenkins sustained her injuries after she slipped on a puddle of water that had collected around a bin of beer and ice. According to attorneys representing Ms. Jenkins, the store in which the injury occurred did not have signs, buckets, or mats under the ice bin to collect draining water, despite the fact that another patron had fallen in the same spot a year earlier.
A jury ultimately found that the store's parent company was 100% liable and awarded Ms. Jenkins more than $1.93 million for past and future medical expenses and pain and suffering.
Thousands of people are injured in slip and fall accidents every year, and many are hesitant to blame anyone other than themselves for their injuries. However, as demonstrated in the case of Ms. Jenkins, parties who own or maintain a property are responsible for keeping that property safe for customers, and this is especially true when an owner has been made aware that a condition exists which may pose a particular threat to the safety of customers.
Slip and fall accidents present a higher risk to certain parts of the population. Elderly adults and children may be more prone to serious injury stemming from a slip and fall. Falls are one of the primary causes of traumatic brain injury in adults aged 65 and older, and a leading cause of head injury for children under 15. Falls in hospitals and other health care settings can be especially serious. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality estimates that 700,000 - 1 million hospitalized patients fall each year. Patients in long-term care facilities are also at very high risk of falls; approximately half of the 1.6 million nursing home residents in the United States fall each year.