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The Seventy-Five Percent Solution
by Ron Davis
A woman who was injured at a Louisiana shopping center will have to settle for the amount of compensation that a jury awarded her--although she tried for much more.
The woman’s injury occurred just outside a Family Dollar store that is a tenant of the Plaquemine shopping center. As she walked the short distance from where she had parked her car to the store entrance, a large tractor-trailer truck bearing a “Domino’s Pizzas” logo on the trailer’s side blocked her path. A Domino’s restaurant is located next to the Family Dollar store at that shopping center.
After she walked around the truck and reached the sidewalk, she tripped on an object lying on the pavement and fell, injuring her knees and back. After regaining her feet, she spotted an analog meat thermometer that was protruding from a crack in the sidewalk. She picked up the thermometer and brought it into the Family Dollar store, where she spoke to a manager about her fall.
After selecting the merchandise she came for, she then spoke to a Family Dollar employee, who she said told her that she had seen the driver of the tractor-trailer truck drop the thermometer earlier that day, but saw him stoop to pick it up. The injured woman said she paid for the merchandise she had selected, then went next door to the Domino’s restaurant, where she spoke to a manager. She added that the manager there did not ask her for information or inquire about her injury, but instead gave her the impression that he was insensitive to her injury. She later underwent surgery for knee replacement.
In her resulting lawsuit against Family Dollar and Domino’s, a jury found them 75 percent at fault and the injured woman 25 percent at fault. Based on that finding, the jury awarded her damages totaling $114,299.74, but reduced that amount based on the degree of fault attributed to her.
She appealed, arguing that the award was “grossly insufficient.” She claimed that Family Dollar should have paid her more, since it failed to ensure that hazardous debris was removed from the sidewalk at the entrance of the store.
A Louisiana appellate court rejected her argument, noting the account of the store employee who saw the truck driver drop his thermometer then reach down to the ground to apparently pick up the item. “It was therefore reasonable,” the judge added, “for the employee to assume that he picked up the thermometer.”
Concluded the judge, “The jury heard that evidence and rendered a decision which is not contrary to law and clearly not inadequate.” (Lewis v. Family Dollar Store #3988, La.App, 1 Cir., 2008)
Decision: February 2008
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