No appeal expected in Giant slip-fall case

By Andrew Burger | Jun 1, 2016

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas judge earlier this year awarded plaintiff Tamika Ortiz $39,000 in a lawsuit brought against Giant Food Stores, which was far less than the $65,000 her lawyers originally were seeking in the slip-and-fall case. 

Ortiz, 41, allegedly sustained shoulder injuries when she slipped and fell after treading through snow and tracking water into a Giant Food Stores supermarket in Delaware County on Dec. 26, 2012.

County Court Judge Marlene F. Lachman reduced the award to $39,000 from the $65,000 originally proposed by a jury of 12 at the conclusion of a five-day trial. The jury voted unanimously in Ortiz's favor, assessing 60 percent  of the responsibility for the fall on Giant and 40 percent on Ortiz.

No appeal is pending or planned, a member of the defense legal team recently told The Pennsylvania Record.

"For all intents and purposes, the case is finished," the attorney said. "We would have liked Giant to have been found free of blame, but all in all we're pretty satisfied."

Given the company's prominence in Philadelphia, Giant successfully petitioned the court to have the case tried in Philadelphia County rather than Delaware County where the accident occurred.

A surveillance video of the incident provided the most conclusive evidence.

"This was all on video, so all the best evidence was on video," the defense team member said.

During the trial, Thomas Gibbons, who was representing Oritz, argued Giant was negligent given snow had fallen about an hour before Ortiz entered the store, and that Giant should have immediately recognized and addressed the risks of water tracked in by customers. Responding, Giant's counsel, Joseph M. Toddy of Zarwin Baum DeVito Kaplan Schaer Toddy, said this claim had no basis as Ortiz tracked the water in herself, Giant had no notice and wasn't aware of the fact.

Toddy pointed out that 22 other customers could be seen on surveillance video walking across the exact same area without tracking water inside and without incident just four minutes prior and three minutes after Ortiz fell.

The defense also questioned the veracity of Ortiz's assertion that her injuries were caused by the fall. Ortiz sought to recover a Department of Public Welfare lien of $5,300 and some $23,000 in bills for treatment by an orthopedic surgeon and chiropractor, as well as damages for future pain and suffering.

The defense noted that Ortiz refused medical treatment at the supermarket. In addition, X-rays taken following the accident were negative, and Ortiz underwent a normal examination at a hospital emergency room. Furthermore, they pointed out, she only sought further treatment 27 days later.

Giant's defense attorney also pointed out that Ortiz had complained to doctors of pain in her left shoulder previously, in 2006. Comparing MRIs from 2006 and 2013, defense counsel's expert in orthopedic surgery concluded they were identical and that Ortiz had not suffered any shoulder injury from the fall.

Playing video of Ortiz's fall, the physician noted she fell on her buttocks and hence she could not have sustained the shoulder injury as a result of the fall. Countering that claim, Ortiz's attorney said she braced herself while falling and that her shoulder had been jammed upwards as a result.

Calls to Gibbons went unanswered.

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