A lawyer took a supermarket chain to task for not having a sufficient safety program, and it cost the employer big bucks. But this isn’t about an OSHA fine or a workers’ comp trial.
A sales representative for General Mills was making one of her routine stops at a Pathmark supermarket in Philadelphia when she tripped over a box that the store’s employees had used to prop open a back office door. The rubber door stopper that had been used to prop open the door had worn out, and the box had served as its replacement for several weeks.
The General Mills employee suffered a fracture of her dominant shoulder which required surgery and a metal implant. She had a poor outcome from the surgery and was forced to give up her job and driving.
It won’t surprise you to find out that this became a trip-and-fall case or that Pathmark’s defense was that the woman should have seen the box. The largest settlement Pathmark offered was $75,000.
But the lawyer for the injured woman cited during trial that, despite having 125 stores in its chain, Pathmark didn’t have:
- a corporate safety officer
- a corporate safety committee, and
- safety training for the personnel of the Philadelphia store.
According to a post on TheNationalTrialLawyers.org, those facts helped the woman’s lawyer overcome the “blame the injured person defense.”
The result: A federal jury awarded the woman $834,703.
There was one more trial exhibit that the woman’s lawyer, Robert Slota Jr., cited as key to his case: a typical rubber door stopper he bought at Home Depot for $4.95. He used it throughout the trial. No one from Pathmark could explain why the store didn’t just replace the $5 door stop that had worn out. “It was the cheapest trial exhibit I’ve ever paid for,” Slota said.
What do you think about this jury verdict? Let us know in the comments below.
(Ferguson v. Pathmark, U.S. Dist. Crt. E.D. PA, No. 2:13-cv-00778)