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Plaintiff slipped and fell on icy sidewalk at auto dealership – $2,000,000 Verdict

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//June 16, 2014

Plaintiff slipped and fell on icy sidewalk at auto dealership – $2,000,000 Verdict

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//June 16, 2014

Plaintiff was a 59-year-old Vietnam veteran working as an engineer at the Newport News Shipyard. He went to the defendant’s auto dealership for service on his pickup truck three days after the Christmas blizzard of 2010. As he exited the dealership to find his wife, he turned from the main entrance sidewalk onto a lesser-used walkway and encountered an area that appeared to be merely wet.

Deposition testimony from the defendant’s employees revealed the area in question was known to ice up from the regular discharge of water coming from a roof drain. Parts of the area had been treated with “ice-melt” but the area of the plaintiff’s fall may have been skipped because a parts delivery pickup truck had been parked over it. Testimony indicated that employees may have forgotten to put down ice melt after the parts truck left that morning to make deliveries. The plaintiff slipped with his first step onto the concrete and immediately fractured his ankle. He also fell directly onto his back, which had had two prior back surgeries. The plaintiff underwent an emergency open reduction internal fixation surgery and several months of recovery. He returned for surgery on two subsequent occasions for skin grafting at the surgical site, which finally healed with some significant scarring. The plaintiff also elected to undergo surgical implantation of a spinal stimulator device (approximate cost: $250,000).

The defendant vigorously contested liability and damages, alleging it had used reasonable efforts to mitigate icing conditions. Defendants further claimed that the plaintiff failed to mitigate his injuries by continuing to smoke following his first surgery. Also, the defendants claimed that the spinal stimulator was unrelated to the subject accident since it was something the plaintiff had inquired about on several occasions prior to his fall.

The defendant had earlier suggested mediation as a means to resolve the case. The matter was submitted and the parties convened for mediation, but prior to commencement the defendant’s counsel advised that they would not be extending an offer to settle. The mediation was terminated, and there were no further discussions concerning settlement. The jury trial lasted three days after which the issues of negligence, negligence per se and contributory negligence were submitted to the jury. The jury deliberated for approximately three hours before returning its verdict in favor of the plaintiff. The jury’s award of interest from the date of the accident is estimated to have added over $400,000 to the verdict. Post-trial motions have been filed by the defense.


Type of action: Personal injury – slip and fall
Injuries alleged: Fractured ankle with surgical repair/internal fixation; two subsequent skin grafts to achieve closure; aggravation of pre-existing back problems
Name of case: Hodges v. Hall of Virginia Beach V LLC
Court: Virginia Beach Circuit Court
Case no.: CL12-4857
Tried before: Jury
Judge: Edward W. Hanson Jr.
Date resolved: May 22, 2014
Special damages: Medical bills to date – $346,971.13; lost wages – $38,997.52; future medical bills and expenses – $163,980 (total – $549,948.65)
Demand: Never solicited
Offer: None
Verdict or settlement: Verdict
Amount: $2,000,000 plus interest from date of accident
Attorneys for plaintiff: Jeffrey F. Brooke and Tara L. Chadbourn, Virginia Beach
Attorneys for defendant: David L. Dayton and Randall C. Lenhart Jr., Norfolk
Plaintiff’s experts: John Williamson, M.D., orthopedics; Brian Weaver, M.D., pain management; Dano Holland, P.E., structural engineering/building codes; Duane Harding, Ph.D., meteorology
Defendant’s experts: John Aldridge, M.D., orthopedics/medical records review
Insurance carrier: Zurich

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