This case began as a simple trip and fall case when plaintiff, a 45-year-old bookkeeper, tripped and fell on a chipped brick in a crosswalk on Market Street in San Francisco. Due to the fall, she fractured her elbow. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the fracture, it did not heal well and the plaintiff was unable to turn her arm over enough to type, which she needed to do in her profession as a bookkeeper. Because of the seriousness of the outcome, the law offices of Winer, Burritt & Scott, LLP, retained a team of experts to prove that the crosswalk was negligently constructed and maintained and that the plaintiff could not, in fact, position her arm well enough to type or write for any long period of time.
What started as a chip in a brick in a crosswalk turned into an investigation of the 30 feet below the crosswalk all the way down to the MUNI/BART underground tunnel. By obtaining and studying tens of thousands of pages of records and retaining a masonry expert, mechanical engineer, structural engineer and an architect, plaintiff was able to uncover evidence which tended to establish that an inadequate substructure was laid for the brick crosswalk given the fact that heavy buses and trucks would be driving over it. The forces on a brick crosswalk, as compared to a brick sidewalk, were many times greater; the crosswalk was destined to fail and bricks were going to crack.
This strategy caused the focus of the case to turn away from the fact that the plaintiff tripped over a small defect which she could have seen and toward the construction of the crosswalk and substructure with all of the contractors and subcontractors pointing the finger at each other.
To demonstrate the plaintiff’s injury, the law firm videotaped an examination by an orthopedist while recording the plaintiff’s pain responses as she attempted to move her hands into typing position on a typewriter. It was clear from this video that the only way the plaintiff could put her hand on a typewriter was to move her arm in an extremely awkward position, which she would only have been able to maintain for a few seconds.
RESULT: Settlement for the plaintiff for $450,000