Defendants Verdict for Bi-State Development Agency

PS Partner: Don O’Keefe

We represented: Bi-State Development Agency, d/b/a Metro

Venue: St. Louis City Circuit Court

Facts:

Plaintiff’s lawsuit arose from a slip-and-fall sustained by plaintiff Sharon Therrian when she attempted to board a Bi-State bus on October 10, 2011 near the intersection of South Grand Boulevard and Magnolia in the City of St. Louis. Plaintiff alleged damages for personal injuries as a
result of stepping into what she called a pothole as she specifically stepped from the curb onto the street in order to reach the Bi-State bus. Plaintiff’s Petition and evidence at trial included that she was waiting on the west side of South Grand when a Bi-State bus pulled up to the stop, failed to pull up to the curb, and stopped several feet from the curb. Plaintiff claimed that as a result, she was required to step into the street to board the bus, and in doing so, she stepped into a 10”x10”x2” dirt and debris-filled pothole located in the street immediately adjacent to the street.

Plaintiff brought her claim against both Bi-State Development Agency and the City of St. Louis. Plaintiff claimed that the City of St. Louis was negligent because the street contained a pothole that the City knew about or had reason to know about but failed to remedy. In turn, plaintiff alleged that Bi-State was negligent because the bus driver failed to stop next to the curb per company policy and thereby failed to provide plaintiff a safe place to board the bus without first having to step into the street. Plaintiff claimed that the failure to stop next to the curb exposed plaintiff to the pothole, thereby causing her injuries.

There was a dispute between Bi-State’s operator and the plaintiff as to the precise positioning of the bus. Bi-State’s operator stated that she stopped inches from the curb, but plaintiff, her brother, and a family friend all testified that the bus was several feet from the curb. The brother and friend did not witness the occurrence, but the friend was actually on the bus at the time, and plaintiff’s brother arrived minutes following the accident.

Both Bi-State and the City of St. Louis denied having any prior knowledge of the pothole. The pothole was believed to have been created when a City contractor made an excavation into the street, perhaps to see what utilities may exist under the roadway. Plaintiff originally brought AT&T and Schatz Underground in as defendants briefly before dismissing them without prejudice when the evidence revealed that they worked on the other side of the intersection.

Following plaintiff’s fall on October 10, 2011, she was transported by ambulance to the emergency room at St. Louis University Hospital. Plaintiff was in stable condition but complained of significant pain in both of her ankles. She was diagnosed with an avulsion fracture to her right ankle and a posterior malleolus fracture with anterior dislocation of the tibia and distal fibular fracture in the right ankle. Plaintiff was hospitalized for several days before undergoing a closed reduction with the inclusion of instrumentation in her left ankle. The surgery was performed on October 25, 2011 at St. Louis University Hospital. Plaintiff was admitted into the hospital following her surgery for extensive physical therapy. She remained in the hospital for seven total days and was discharged on October 31, 2011.

Plaintiff’s surgeon was Dr. Jessica McMichael of the St. Louis University Department of Orthopedics. She had several follow-up visits with Dr. McMichael and completed her treatment in April 2011. Despite completing her medical treatment at that time, plaintiff complained of serious pain, discomfort and restriction in her left ankle, which limited her ability to perform activities of daily living, including exercising (plaintiff claimed she was an avid walker/runner), family vacations, including an upcoming trip to Disney, and other pain/tenderness in and around her left ankle.

Plaintiff claimed total medical specials of $62,196.58. Of that amount, only $158.55 was paid. There was a pre-trial matter involving whether or not the Court would allow defendants to introduce the amount necessary to actually satisfy plaintiff’s financial obligation, which was not the total billed amount. Rather, through affidavits from various St. Louis University entities, it was determined that plaintiff actually only owed $24,880.87 after credits and adjustments to her bill. After reviewing the billing and the healthcare affidavits, Judge Timothy Wilson permitted the defendants to introduce the $24,880.87, which represented the amount necessary to satisfy plaintiff’s financial obligation.

After about an hour of deliberations, the jury returned its verdict in favor of the defendants, finding them free of fault for plaintiff’s injuries. Plaintiff was also found to be 0% at fault, which is consistent with the defendants’ arguments that this was simply an accident. Opposing counsel, Walter Floyd, requested that the jury award plaintiff damages of $200,000.

Last Demand: $200,000

Last Offer: $15,000

Verdict:  Defendant’s verdict

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