Vega v. Family Dollar Stores Inc.: A Cumberland County jury awarded $350,533 to a woman who fell while shopping on Jan. 11.
According to plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer, on Dec. 23, 2013, plaintiff Yolanda Vega, 57, was shopping with her daughter at a Family Dollar store in Vineland. She asserted that as she was walking at the end of an aisle, she slipped on a large area of clear liquid. She landed on her backside and claimed she injured her neck, shoulders and spine.
Vega sued Family Dollar Stores Inc., alleging negligence in maintaining the premises, creating a dangerous condition. The liquid that Vega had slipped on came from a bottle of cleaner which was found on the floor near the spill. Vega’s personal injury lawyer argued that the liquid had been on the floor for some time. Vega’s counsel further faulted the store for being understaffed, particularly since it was the holiday season. There was only one employee in the store at the time, and that employee’s duty was to be behind the register, instead of inspecting the store for potential dangerous conditions.
Vega was hospitalized and later presented to her primary care physician, who referred her to a chiropractor. Vega treated with chiropractic care and physical therapy. An orthopedic surgeon diagnosed herniations at C3-4, C4-5, C5-6, and C6-7; bulging at lumbar discs L2-3, L3-4, L4-5, and L5-S1; and other injuries. She received epidural injections and at the time of trial continued to take pain medication and consult with her pain-management physician. Vega’s orthopedic surgeon and pain-management specialist both causally related her injuries and treatment to the accident and opined that they were permanent in nature.
Family Dollar asserted that it had no notice of the spill and that Vega was unable to establish how long the liquid had been on the floor or how it had gotten on the floor. Family Dollar’s expert in orthopedic surgery, who examined Vega and reviewed her films, determined that her MRIs showed pre-existing, degenerative conditions, and that any accident-related injury would have long subsided.
The matter was tried for three days before Superior Court Judge James R. Swift. The jury found Family Dollar liable for Vega’s accident and injuries. and awarded $300,000 in non-economic damages and $50,533 for past medical expenses.
Original article first published in the New Jersey Law Journal 3/9/18