Defense Verdict in Premises Liability Case

Plaintiff and his wife (the decedent) were at a restaurant celebrating her 60th birthday. Plaintiff alleged that his wife fell on stairs inside the restaurant that were admittedly in violation of the Building Code with respect to stair riser height and handrails. As a result of the fall, plaintiff’s wife fractured her hip. She had surgery but died in the hospital due to complications.

Plaintiff sued the restaurant claiming it was negligent with respect to the subject stairs and that plaintiff’s wife died as a result of the injuries sustained in the fall. Plaintiff’s pretrial demand was $3,500,000 and the demand increased by $1,500,000 each week in the last weeks leading up to the trial. Our client offered $100,000 via CCP 998 offer to compromise. The jury trial began on July 23, 2018 in Department 21 of the Orange County Superior Court before the Hon. Deborah Servino. There were a total of 29 motions in limine. One of our successful motions was to keep out of evidence any hearsay statements the decedent said to physicians re tripping on the stairs. Since there were no eyewitnesses who saw her on the stairs, our contentions were that she either had a spontaneous fracture of her hip while walking due to her preexisting health issues; tripped and fell before even reaching the stairs; or there were many other possibilities causing the fall. During closing argument, plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award between $14,000,000 – $20,000,000. We told the jury to award $0 since our client did not cause the decedent to fall/break her hip.

On August 14, 2018, the jury returned their verdict. On the issue of negligence, the jury found against our client (11-1). However, on the issue of causation, the jury found in favor of our client (10-2).

August 14, 2018