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Eighth Circuit Upholds Denial of New Trial in Missouri Slip and Fall Injury – Roderick v. Wal-Mart Stores

By January 27, 2012March 14th, 2022Premises Liability

As a Missouri personal injury attorney, I sometimes handle “slip and fall” cases involving people who were hurt by dangerous conditions on other people’s property. This is often but by no means always on property open to the public, such as a store or restaurant. The injuries in these cases are frequently more serious than they sound, because a hard fall can mean a back, neck or head injury that can have permanent effects on the victim’s life. In Roderick v. Wal-Mart Stores, Bonnie Roderick sued after she slipped in a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Marysville, Missouri, which ultimately required a hip replacement surgery to fix. At trial, she lost in several disputes over what evidence to admit, and eventually the jury found against her. The Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ultimately declined to order a new trial.
Roderick tripped on a rug that had one corner turned up “just enough to catch your toe.” The fall broke her left hip, requiring surgery and rehabilitation, but the screws used in the first surgery ultimately failed, requiring a total hip replacement and more physical therapy. A year later, Roderick fell again; she alleges that this fall was caused by a dropped toe caused by the Wal-Mart fall This fall necessitated a third surgery and a stint in a wheelchair, and created severe personal limitations like a need for help when going to the bathroom and an inability to care for her husband (who had been in a nursing home) before his death. She sued Wal-Mart over the slip and fall accident, but the jury found against her. In her motion for a new trial, she said Wal-Mart’s expert medical witness should not have been admitted; she should have been permitted to raise evidence of prior falls on the same rug; and defense statements about the character of the Wal-Mart’s manager. This was denied and she appealed to the Eighth Circuit.
That court found for Wal-Mart on all of the issues raised. On the medical testimony, Roderick alleged that Dr. Simon (no first name given) prepared a report on her condition that did not meet evidentiary requirements under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and that his testimony was frequently irrelevant or incorrect. However, the Eighth Circuit agreed with the trial court that any error from this was not enough to affect the jury’s decision. The report was not admitted into evidence at all, it noted, and Roderick failed to raise her objections for more than a year after it was made. On the rug issue, Roderick raised evidence found during discovery that the store pulled up that rug after her fall because it was the second fall in the area. She wished to use this to rebut testimony on cross-examination but was denied. The Eighth agreed that the incidents were not similar enough to use as impeachment of the witness or support the idea that Wal-Mart had notice of the danger. Finally, the court agreed that the closing-argument statements, which the court sustained Roderick’s objection to, were not prejudicial.
This verdict is disappointing for Roderick, of course, but as a St. Louis slip and fall accident lawyer, I appreciate the chance to show readers what the repercussions of a serious trip can be. The phrase “slip and fall” sounds like it could lead only to trivial injuries, but even a broken bone can have permanent or long-term effects on the victim’s health. In this case, the circumstances suggest that Roderick was an older woman at the time, and breaking a hip is a serious health event for older people because it has the potential to leave them permanently disabled and dependent on others for help. Other slips and trips can lead to chronic pain, spinal injuries or even head injuries with permanent disability. As a southern Illinois premises liability attorney, I document these cases thoroughly so I can demonstrate their seriousness to the jury.

Carey, Danis & Lowe represents clients throughout greater St. Louis who have been seriously injured by someone else’s negligence. If you’ve been hurt and you’d like to discuss your rights and your legal options, call us today at 1-877-678-3400 or send us a message through our website.
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