SPBMC Partner Nicholas Papain recently obtained a $1.75 million settlement for a United States Post Office letter carrier who sustained a significant ankle injury after he fell on ice on a homeowner’s driveway.
Mr. Papain’s client, a 40-year-old letter carrier, was delivering mail the day after a 14-inch snowstorm, when he slipped and fell on ice on the defendant homeowner’s driveway. As a result of the fall, he sustained a dislocated trimalleolar fracture of the right ankle, requiring surgery and insertion of two plates and nine screws. He had two subsequent surgeries: one to remove the hardware, which had become very painful, and another which involved a relatively unsuccessful attempt to regenerate new cartilage in the joint, to replace that which had been damaged and lost as a result of the fractures. He developed significant post-traumatic arthritis in the ankle joint which, according to his treating orthopedic surgeon, would eventually require a fourth surgery involving a fusion of the ankle joint.
As a result of his injuries, it was claimed he was no longer able to work as a letter carrier due to his inability to walk long distances or stand for long periods of time. He is now permanently restricted to part-time sedentary work in the post office.
Although the fall occurred the day after a 14-inch snowstorm, which was cleared from the driveway by the defendant’s landscaper within hours of the storm ending, Mr. Papain argued that this was not the cause of his client’s fall. Rather, the cause was a 4-inch snowstorm that occurred four days prior to the fall. After the 4-inch snowstorm, temperatures rose above freezing and the snow turned to slush. It was never cleared prior to the larger, 14-inch snowstorm. The night before the new snowstorm occurred, temperatures fell below freezing. This caused the remaining one inch of slush on the ground from the first storm to turn to ice, which was then covered by the 14 inches of snow that fell during the second storm. The temperatures remained below freezing up until after Mr. Papain’s client fell. After the second storm, the snow was cleared away, but the ice that had formed after the first storm remained in patches on the driveway.
The defendant’s failure to have the snow and slush from the first snowstorm cleared from their driveway proved to be the source of the ice that the letter carrier slipped and fell on, according to the expert testimony of a meteorologist. Beyond failing to have the driveway cleared of the first snowfall, the defendant did not allow the landscaper to salt the driveway, which, according to the expert meteorologist, would have melted the icy patches that remained.
“The first snowstorm was much more manageable, but the defendant did not bother to have it cleared away or treated with salt. As such, they are clearly liable for the injuries sustained by my client,” Mr. Papain said.
The defendant claimed that they were not aware of the icy conditions. They went on to claim that Mr. Papain’s client was negligent in failing to wear winter weather footwear containing spikes as recommended by his employer for snowy and icy conditions, and that he should have seen the ice before stepping on it. The jury found the defendant 80% at fault and Mr. Papain’s client 20% at fault. The case settled for $1.75 million after Mr. Papain presented the testimony of his client’s treating orthopedic surgeon.
“I am pleased that we were able to obtain just compensation for my client’s significant injuries. It is the responsibility of homeowners to maintain those parts of their property where others can be expected to walk free of hazards, such as that created by ice or slush,” Mr. Papain said.
To learn more about Mr. Papain and other notable cases he has litigated, click here.