A federal jury recently returned a six-figure plaintiff’s verdict in favor of a Bucks County
woman who was injured after tripping and falling at a Northeast Philadelphia supermarket while on the job.
Barbara Ferguson, who resides in Southampton, Pa., filed suit earlier this year against the Pathmark on Franklin Mills Boulevard, where she contended she injured herself after she tripped and fell over a box that was being used as a makeshift doorstop at the time to prop open a large office door at the grocery store.
The complaint, initially filed at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas but subsequently removed to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, accused Pathmark of negligence for creating a dangerous and hazardous condition to employees and the public.
The three other defendants named in the litigation were Pathmark Stores Inc., Pathmark International Inc., and The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company Inc., all based in Harrisburg.
The court record shows that following a civil jury trial at the federal courthouse, Furguson was awarded $792,968.16.
All four defendants were found to have been negligent in the case.
According to her complaint, Ferguson was injured back on Jan. 24, 2011, while visiting the Northeast Philadelphia Pathmark store during the scope of her employment with General Mills, which regularly does business with the defendants.
Ferguson was in the business of selling new grocery products to various supermarkets in the area, including the Pathmark store on Franklin Mills Boulevard.
One of Ferguson’s work responsibilities was to ensure new products that she sold to supermarkets appeared on store shelves.
If the product wasn’t on the shelf, Ferguson was responsible for obtaining appropriate paperwork, scanning a tag with the product’s code information, and tagging the shelf where the new product was to be placed, the lawsuit had stated.
On Jan. 24, 2011, Ferguson went into the back office at the Pathmark to obtain paperwork, and when she was leaving the office for the supermarket’s main floor she tripped and fell over the box that was acting as a doorstop, the suit said.
As a result of the incident, Ferguson claimed she dislocated her right shoulder, and fractured it in four places.
Ferguson also said she sustained a left knee fracture, right wrist carpal tunnel syndrome, neck and back injuries, and that suffered from depression.
The woman also claimed she suffered earnings losses from her inability to perform her job following the incident at the Pathmark.
In a pretrial memorandum, defense lawyers noted that according to store General Manager Joseph Dougherty there were never any other problems regarding the box in the years that it had been used as a makeshift doorstop.
Dougherty testified at his deposition that he had been aware of the box, which he never observed to be a dangerous condition.
The pretrial memorandum also notes that Pathmark’s point-of-sales coordinator, Shannon Kilbride, who was in the supermarket’s office at the time of the incident, testified that when she went to assist Ferguson, she heard the plaintiff admit to having seen the box on her way into the office.
Ferguson claimed she became injured after tripping and falling over the box on her way out of the office.
In the end, after a two-day trial, the jurors sided with the plaintiff, deciding that the negligent actions on the part of the defendants ultimately led to the woman’s injuries.
While court records show the jury verdict to be nearly $793,000, a Law Weekly report states that Ferguson was actually awarded in excess of $834,000 for medical expenses and lost wages.
The court docket shows that on July 31, Ferguson’s attorneys submitted a bill of costs in the amount of $15,737.13.
The plaintiff was represented at trial by Lansdale, Pa. attorney Robert E. Slota, Jr., of the firm Hamburg, Rubin, Mullin, Maxwell & Lupin.
The defendants were represented by Philadelphia lawyer Jay D. Branderbit, of Kent & McBride, P.C., and attorney Jessica Heinz, of the Philadelphia-based Legal Defense Counsel.
The trial was presided over by U.S. District Judge John R. Padova.