233,000 Jury Verdict to Injured for Fall at Merchandise Mart; Nelson v. Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc.

On Sept. 30, 2006, Kathleen Nelson slipped and fell on a wet floor while walking down a hallway at the Merchandise Mart.  She was employed there in one of the showrooms. The floor was wet from water that had dripped from a mop used by a maintenance worker employed by the defendant, Millard Group.

The fall was captured on a surveillance video, which showed that the Millard employee left a washroom with the mop, but no bucket. That procedure violated the company policy on mopping floors. A security guard employed by defendants had walked right past the spot where Nelson fell, just a minute before. Apparently the maintenance worker did not see water on the floor until plaintiff showed him after she fell.

Nelson, 54, sustained soft tissue injuries to her neck and back and required 6 months of physical therapy. She also suffered anxiety and panic attacks for two weeks following the incident. Nelson developed post-traumatic stress disorder from the occurrence along with arm tremors. She claimed $48,824 in medical expenses and $10,000 lost time for four months when she was unable to work as a part-time showroom salesperson.

Nelson had seen a rehab/pain medicine specialist and a physical therapist for neck and back issues one year before the occurrence. There were no reports of tremors or anxiety issues and she had no history of any psychiatric treatment for any reason before the fall.

A physician gave opinion testimony at trial that the arm tremors were not caused by her fall, but yet the fall could have aggravated underlying non-active tremors.

The defendants contended that Nelson was contributory negligent because she was wearing flip-flops and sunglasses. The defendants also raised the issue that the water spill was open and obvious and her tremors and PTSD were not related to her fall. All the parties agreed that the soft tissue injuries healed within 7 months. The trial judge entered a directed finding of negligence in favor of the plaintiff at the end of the evidence, but allowed the jury to decide contributory negligence. The jury deliberated for 45 minutes plus lunch.

The jury’s verdict of $233,824 against all of the defendants was made up of the following damages:

  • $48,824 for medical expenses;
  • $50,000 for pain and suffering;
  • $100,000 for emotional distress;
  • $25,000 for disability; and
  • $10,000 for lost wages.

The attorney for Kathleen Nelson was Samuel Kavathas Jr.  The demand to settle before trial was $160,000 and the jury was asked to return a verdict of $258,824.  The offer to settle was $75,000.  The jury’s verdict was all of what counsel for plaintiff asked for, less $20,000.

Kathleen Nelson v. Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc., Voranado Realty Trust, Millard Group, Inc., 06 L 12275 (Cook County).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling injury cases for individuals and families for more than 37 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Chicago (Rogers Park), Chicago (Bridgeport), Mount Prospect, Rosemont, River Grove, River Forest, Park Ridge, Chicago (Lincoln Park), Chicago (Wicker Park), Mundelein and Joliet, Ill.

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