On January 11, 2017 a federal court jury in Gulfport rendered a verdict for the plaintiff in Garcia v. Fickling Management Services, Inc. Here is the Complaint.

Plaintiff, Linda Garcia, a 65-year-old woman, slipped and fell down concrete steps covered in ice while exiting her apartment at the Palm Isle apartment complex in Biloxi, MS on January 24, 2014. Defendant managed the complex.

Plaintiff sustained a torn rotator cuff and a disc bulge in her neck.  Plaintiff’s medical expenses totaled approximately $90,000. Plaintiff presented evidence that she would incur an additional $35,000 in medical expenses related to a future neck surgery.

Defendant argued, by way of its expert witness Dr. David Bomboy, that all of Plaintiff’s medical conditions were pre-existing in nature.

At the time of the Plaintiff’s fall, the Mississippi Gulf Coast was experiencing one of the worst winter storms in decades. Plaintiff denied having knowledge of the storm or the ice on the stairs when she exited her apartment and began walking down her stairs.

Plaintiff argued that the Defendant was negligent because it failed to follow its policies and procedures which required the property to put “ice melt” on the stairs and sidewalks of the property in the event of a freeze.  Defendant denied liability by arguing that it placed “Freeze Warning” signs throughout the apartment complex and distributed flyers warning of icy conditions to all tenants prior to the storm (these were disputed by Plaintiff and other tenants who denied every receiving same prior to Plaintiff’s fall). Defendant further argued that it should not be held responsible because the Mississippi coastal properties had no reason to anticipate freezing weather and/or the need for ice melt and that the policy and procedure was merely sent to all properties that it owned/managed with the assumption that the property managers had discretion as to whether or not such policies applied to a particular property.

The jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of the Plaintiff in the amount of $110,000.00 with fault allocated to the Defendant in the amount of 70%. Here is the verdict form.

Based on the comparative fault, the Court later entered a judgment of $77,000.

The Defendant’s settlement offer before trial was $5,000.

Shandra Yates of Burns & Associates and Rocky Wilkins (all from Jackson) represented the Plaintiff. Ed Taylor with Daniel Coker in Gulfport represented the defendant.

Chief District Judge Louis Guirola presided in the case.

My Take:

This is a noteworthy verdict because slip-and-fall cases usually go to the Coast to die. Before plaintiff lawyers get too excited, it’s going to be tough to round-up a bunch of ice slip cases on the Coast. In my eighteen years living on the Coast I remember 1 significant snow fall and no ice.