Disclaimer. This story is crude and disgusting. But I just report the facts.
Where many attorneys feel they are “too good” to work on the less “sexy” cases like slip and fall matters, I have a confession: They are not beneath me and I love them.
99% of the time, slip and fall cases don’t involve sad things like death or catastrophic injuries. The person falls down, goes boom, gets back up, hires an attorney three days later, and starts treating with a chiropractor for “soft tissue injuries.”
Absent complicated health issues or outrageously high medical bills, slip and fall cases usually aren’t stressful and are a nice respite from the fatality, traumatic brain injury, or child molestation cases that are also found in my assignment list.
So I’ll take ’em with a smile.
Slip and fall plaintiffs are often “career plaintiffs” who make nice little wads of cash making claims in connection with other accidents including fender benders and other premises liability issues.
Why work when you can get something for free? (I once had a plaintiff tell me it was foolish for him to work when he received disability benefits and could sit on the couch all day. He was young and fully capable of working a desk job but I guess he had a point…)
Reading through their medical records is equally hilarious.
I worked at a law firm that represented a large international retail chain. Most of the cases involving this client involved slip and fall events that happened in the stores.
One thing I learned is nearly everything is a slip (or trip) and fall hazard and, frankly, it’s just the cost of doing business.
Other human beings. (No joke, I represented this same client in a matter where a plaintiff made a claim against the store for negligent mode of operation after the plaintiff tripped and fell over the store’s employee when the employee was crouched down in an aisle stocking canned goods on a bottom shelf. The plaintiff admitted at her deposition that she wasn’t paying attention to where she was going and that she “just assumed” nobody was next to her in the aisle. A local judge entered Summary Judgment against the plaintiff, and she got a goose egg for her wallet to go with the goose egg that was on her head after she tripped over the employee.)
I was routinely assigned to the same Southwest Florida location of this retail chain and, because of the large volume of cases, I became friendly with the store’s general manager.
At the time, I was pregnant with my second daughter and, as he too was in his mid-thirties with young children of his own, we often spent time laughing and sharing “war stories” about having kids.
We’ll refer to him as Manager Mike.
One morning I had to meet with Manager Mike to prepare him for a deposition involving… dun dun dun.. a slip and fall case.
He was late for our meeting and appeared flustered and overwhelmed when he arrived.
Sorry I’m late. Last Friday was the worst work day of my life and I’ve been playing “catch up” at the store ever since.
Worst than the time you discovered a customer committed suicide with a machete in the handicapped stall of the men’s room?
(This actually happened at this same store.)
Wayyyyyyyyyyyy worse than that!
Worse than the time one of your cart retrieval dudes found a dead body in a car in the parking lot that had been there for days baking in the hot July sun?
(That also happened.)
Oh girl, even worse than that.
It actually was worse.
Manager Mike went on to tell me that an adult customer had entered the property through the garden center, pulled down her shorts, and defecated on the floor in the middle of an aisle. It happened somewhere between the hibiscus and hydrangeas. A couple minutes later and before the store’s employees had time to realize the shit-uation and do anything about it, another customer came along and slipped and fell in it.
Apparently, this customer was pushing a shopping cart and was unable to see it on the floor in front of her. She fell and cracked her head on the cement floor.
The customer was nonresponsive and the employees were worried she sustained a brain injury. Paramedics arrived and there was a huge scene in front of the store trying to get her medical attention.
After learning of the ordeal, Manager Mike hurriedly went to the store surveillance room to pull video and determine whether the poop-etrator was still in the store.
Lo and behold, the entire incident in the garden center was captured on video and the woman who did it was shown entering the interior of the store.
Manager Mike was able to get a general idea about what she looked like and undertook efforts to locate her in the store. After a few minutes, he spotted an older female (but not too old to know better!) pushing a cart and walking next to a younger woman, who appeared to be her daughter. The manager was certain it was her because she had feces streaked down her right leg and it appeared to be crammed into the heel of her Keds-style shoe.
She didn’t have a care in the world and was busy checking out the picture frames and decorative pillows in the housewares section.
Manager Mike approached this woman, aggressively tapped her on the shoulder, and when she turned around, said:
Did you go to the bathroom on the floor in the garden center?
Her defense was simple.
Sir. I had to go realllllllllll bad.
Well, you should have told an employee what happened so it could be cleaned… now another customer fell in it and is seriously injured.
The woman didn’t seem to mind and continued shopping.
A few things.
While most normal people can control their bowels, would tell someone if they had an accident, and certainly wouldn’t stick around and shop with dirty clothes and shoes, this woman didn’t give a damn.
I’m not sure whatever transpired from this situation, the health of the customer who fell, or whether she ever initiated a claim against this store for her injuries. The store would have a good defense, given the short amount of time between when the first customer went to the bathroom and when the second customer fell, given Florida’s law about notice in premises liability cases.
It doesn’t matter much.
The bottom line is that when you’re having a bad day, just remember it could always be worse.
You could be the lady who fell.