Carmen Ruiz, 54, brought a premises liability claim against Thomas Jefferson University Hospital (TJUH) in Philadelphia after a slip-and-fall accident in a hallway. She claims to have slipped on a liquid and injured her right shoulder. The claim states that the defendant was negligent in allowing for a dangerous condition on the property and failing to warn her. The hospital claims to have had no knowledge of the spill at the time the fall occurred. A jury heard the case and rendered a verdict favoring the defense.
The condition of the floors within the hospital is managed by the Department of Environmental Services. The manager for the department explained that inspections of the floors are conducted five times per shift. In addition, security officers patrolling the halls also will notify a floor tech when they encounter a spill. The defense stated that Ruiz had pain in the same shoulder back in 2009.
Damages & Findings
Ruiz was treated in the emergency department at the hospital and released. Three days later she visited the emergency department again complaining of pain. She received treatment initially from a chiropractor and then saw an orthopedic surgeon who conducted an MRI. It was determined that she had a torn supraspinatus tendon, which is part of the rotator cuff. She then had an arthroscopy procedure to repair the shoulder damage. Ruiz underwent four months of physical therapy to rehabilitate the shoulder and claims to have had ongoing pain. Her claim includes damages for pain and suffering.
Slip & Fall Data
The National Floor Safety Institute reported some of the following information regarding these types of accidents:
- Roughly 8 million people visit emergency departments annually after experiencing a fall, which accounts for 21.3% of such visits
- Among the injuries resulting from falls, fractures and head injuries are among the most dangerous
- Falls are a very common reason for days of missed work
- For those age 55 and older, slip-and-falls are the most common workplace injury and the reason for claims of workers’ compensation
- Approximately 33% of those over 65 years of age endure a fall each year
- For those over the age of 65 falls are the second most common injury that leads to death
Slip-and-fall accidents are often the result of damaged pavement, damage to stairs, faulty handrails, and carpet tears. During the winter slip-and-fall accidents tend to increase as the surface conditions become wet and icy. Landlords are generally responsible for clearing snow and ice from exterior walkways. Other less common reasons for falls include when people collide with one another, those who are walking while using mobile devices, and those caused by dogs
Pennsylvania Premises Liability Overview
Those who own or possess property are potentially liable for accidents that occur on their property. The duty to care that the owner owes to individuals upon their land varies according to the status of the visitor at the time. The three types of individual status are invitee, licensee, or trespasser. Invitees are owed the highest level of care and these include those who are on the property for public purposes or as customers of a business. Licensees are afforded a similar level of care. Property owners are to warn those on their land of any known dangerous conditions. Trespassers are not owed the same duty of care; however, liability would apply if their injuries were the result of intentional actions.
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