The Iowa Supreme Court has set for retrial the case of Alcala v. Marriott Int’l, Inc., a slip-and-fall case that involves a hotel business guest who was injured after a fall on an ice-slicked walkway on the property.
Boston residents are well familiar with the phenomenon of ice and snow during the brutal winter months. Of course, it’s not something many want to spend time thinking about at the start of summer, but it’s worth keeping abreast of legal developments on this front because it does affect many in Massachusetts for a good six months out of the year.
In Massachusetts, the 2010 ruling of Papadopoulos v. Target Corp. upended the previous slip-and-fall standard when it came to snow and ice, which was that there was no liability for naturally-accumulated ice and snow, but there was for unnaturally-accumulated ice and snow. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court held that a property owner owed a duty to lawful visitors in both cases to protect them from hazards arising from snow and ice. Whether a property owner’s action is “reasonable” will depend on a myriad of factors, including likelihood of injury, probable seriousness of such injuries and how great a burden it is to reduce or avoid that risk altogether.
According to court records, plaintiff was a software consultant who traveled from Texas to Iowa to implement new software. While on one of these business trips in 2010, plaintiff intended to spend the entire workweek with the client and checked into a hotel a few blocks from where she would be working.
Around 8 a.m., while she prepared to head to the office, she slipped and fell while exiting the hotel. She sought medical attention, and it was revealed she broke her ankle.
Plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against defendants, alleging the hotel negligently caused her injury because it allowed ice to build up on the outdoor walkways. In so doing, it failed to maintain a safe premises. Further, she asserted the company hadn’t trained its employees properly to ensure the icy sidewalks were addressed. Lastly, she asserted the hotel did not warn its guests of a possibly dangerous condition, as it was required to do.
The case went to trial.
There was reportedly a snowstorm in that region that indicated there would be ice accumulation in the area, but the weather reports only pointed to a broad, 13-county area. Witnesses testified it was “bad” that morning, but one hotel worker said she had no trouble getting in to work that morning. It was not raining or misting, though it was gray and there was reportedly a lot of moisture. A paramedic who responded to the 911 call said it was “rough” outside and “quite icy.”
No witnesses at trial testified as to what the standard practice should be for training employees, though there was some testimony about the type of training employees received.
Both sides presented expert witnesses as to the industry standards for slip-and-fall standards and whether certain environmental conditions render the risk of a fall reasonably foreseeable.
The jury returned a verdict finding the hotel was 98 percent liable and awarding plaintiff $1.2 million in damages for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and loss of bodily function.
Defendant hotel moved for a new trial and a remittitur (reduction of damages) or a judgement notwithstanding verdict. Trial court denied these requests and defendant appealed. The appellate court ordered a new trial and, recently, the Iowa Supreme Court issued a ruling agreeing with that decision.
The court concluded the jury instructions did not include important information on improper training standards and the “continuing storm” instruction.
The case will now be retried.
If you have suffered personal injury in Massachusetts, call Jeffrey Glassman Injury Lawyers for a free and confidential appointment — (617) 777-7777.
Alcala v. Marriott Int’l, Inc., June 10, 2016, Iowa Supreme Court
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Family Sues YMCA After Teen Drowns, June 2, 2016, Boston Slip and Fall Accident Lawyer