A slip-and-fall lawsuit filed against Kroger Grocery Stores concluded on January 20 with a massive award for the plaintiff. The Gwinnett County jury awarded an injured shopper $2.3 million in damages, after a judge determined that the defendant, Kroger Co, had destroyed key videographic evidence of the accident.
The plaintiff, 49-year old Craig Walters, sustained injuries in May of 2008 at a Douglassville Kroger grocery store, after slipping and falling on a piece of smashed fruit on the floor. Falling directly onto his back, Walters suffered a spinal cord injury that resulted in extensive medical treatment and his inability to return to work. According to Walters’ attorney, Lloyd N. Bell, Walters had to undergo spinal surgery among other medical treatments, incurring a total of $135,000 in medical bills.
Lawyers representing Kroger alleged that the grocery store’s video surveillance was not directed to capture the area where the accident took place. They also claimed that all surveillance footage from the day of the incident had been taped over, due to a store policy of recording over surveillance tapes after 17 days of holding them.
Upon inspection, however, Walters’ attorneys discovered that there was in fact a surveillance camera directed on the spot where Walters fell. Further investigation revealed enough evidence that the video tape had existed and been intentionally destroyed to lead Judge Joseph Iannozzone to deduce that Kroger had been negligent, and to schedule a trial to determine the punitive damages owed to the injured customer.
According to the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI), an organization dedicated to “the prevention of slips, trips-and-falls through education, research and standards development,” slips and falls account for over one million hospital emergency room visits annually.While many of us may think of slip-and-fall injuries being restricted to older populations, these types of accidents can happen to anyone at any time. According to NFSI, slips and falls are the leading cause of occupational injury for people aged 15-24 years and are the leading cause of workers’ compensation claims overall.
Some slip-and-falls may result in nothing more than a sore behind and an embarrassed grin. But other accidents can lead to far worse injuries and even death. The National Floor Safety Institute reports that 5 percent of all slip-and-falls result in a bone fracture. Both the likelihood of both falling and sustaining injury from a fall increase with age; for people over 65 years old, 87 percent of fractures are a result of falling, and falling is the second leading cause of both spinal cord and brain injury in this age category.
Not only can slip-and-falls—both on and off the job—incur physical pain and expensive medical bills, they can also lead to financial losses due to missed work. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics published a news release in 2011 that reported that following an on-the-job slip, trip or fall, employees had to miss an average of eight days of work. The financial, physical and emotional costs can be heavy burdens, becoming even more frustrating when it’s clear the accident could have been avoided. When an incident is the result of another person or organization’s negligent behavior, the victim deserves compensation.
If you or someone you love was injured in a slip-and-fall accident – either on the job or in a public or commercial space – you may be entitled to compensation for your injury. All too often, negligence on the part of the property owner can lead to unsafe conditions that cause slip-and-fall accidents, such as unmarked wet, slippery floors, or unattended spills. Contact the experienced attorneys of Childers, Schlueter & Smith to find out if legal action should be taken to compensate your losses.