FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 28, 2018

Contact:Eric W. Boyer, Esq.
Managing Partner
305.670.1101 Ext. 1023
Email: eboyer@qpwblaw.com

 

QPWB DEFENSE DEFEATS REPTILE METHOD TRIAL STRATEGY AND
SHOWS PLAINTIFF’S EVIDENCE DID NOT SUPPORT BURDEN OF PROOF

Premises Liability

 Michael J. Wood
Michael J. Wood

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. ―Michael J. Wood, a partner in the Fort Lauderdale office of Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, P.A.,  obtained a defense verdict on liability after a jury deliberated for 70 minutes on March 28, 2018.

The lawsuit involved a trip and fall accident which occurred at an apartment complex on April 10, 2014. Plaintiff filed her lawsuit in July of 2014 and the case was heavily litigated over the course of almost four years. The elderly plaintiff was a tenant at the property and claimed she tripped and fell over rocks placed by another tenant in a planter area.  Plaintiff struck the back of her head on steps and claimed to have suffered a neck fracture. She was transported by fire rescue to Memorial Regional Hospital and was admitted for four days, eventually underwent emergency surgery to fuse the neck fracture to prevent paralysis. Plaintiff had incurred $400,000.00 in medical bills, but after the cross examination of plaintiff’s neurosurgeon, plaintiff’s counsel reduced the boardable medical bills to $208,000.00 along with testimony that the plaintiff would need a 3-level cervical fusion to stabilize the neck at a cost of $150,000.00.

The case was defended on liability and damages and a motion for summary judgment was argued and denied two years before trial. As to liability, an independent eye witness testified that he saw the plaintiff walk down the stairs and directly into the planter area, step on a rock and fall backwards. Plaintiff herself testified that the rocks were always within the planter area and never on the safe walkway. The plaintiff’s counsel tried to use the classic Reptile Method by telling the jury that the complex needed safety policies and procedures in place to ensure the common areas were safe for the tenants. The defense addressed the tactics being applied during the opening statement and in closing by actually advising the jury of what the plaintiff’s counsel was trying to accomplish by using a fear-based tactic method  emphasizing “safety rules.” The defense countered it by advising the jury to focus on the facts of the case, including the plaintiff’s testimony which established that she knew the rocks were in the planter and had walked by them over 2,000 times during her tenancy at the complex.

On the damages, the defense argued that the plaintiff had not met the burden of proof showing that the fall on April 10, 2014 caused the neck fracture. Specifically, the plaintiff had a neck CT scan in June 2013 that showed severe degenerative changes at the same level where she suffered a fracture. After the 2013 CT scan, the plaintiff started to suffer from fainting spells, dizziness and incidents of falling. Both, the plaintiff’s neuro surgeon and the defense’s orthopedic expert, agreed that the fracture could have been caused at any time between June 2013 and April 2014 because after the fall the fracture was diagnosed as “age indeterminate.” Further, the defense put into evidence records showing the jury that plaintiff’s fracture was noted as healed by July 2, 2014. Plaintiff continued to have episodes of fainting and by January 2015 had fractured the same level of the spine, which eventually resulted in the emergency surgery. Plaintiff’s counsel had no explanation to give to the jury on how the plaintiff suffered another cervical fracture.

Plaintiff had filed a proposal for settlement for $200,000.00 before the majority of the medical bills were incurred. The last demand before trial was $950,000.00 and the last offer in a proposal for settlement was $50,000.00. The jury deliberated for 70 minutes before returning a verdict of no liability.         

 

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Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, P.A., is the largest minority and women owned law firm in the nation with more than 360 lawyers serving clients from 21 offices in the United States and abroad across a spectrum of industries in over 40 areas of practice. Our lawyers provide representation in litigation, business, real estate and governmental law.