Woman awarded $436K in slip and fall bench trial against Entergy

By Alejandro de los Rios | Jan 21, 2011

A 76-year-old New Orleans woman was awarded more than $469,000 in a lawsuit against Entergy of New Orleans Inc., after she broke her arm as a result of falling on a piece of plywood covering an Entergy work site in December 2003.

New Orleans attorney David Oestreicher filed the lawsuit on behalf of Laura Garner in 2004. The suit claimed Entergy was negligent in not posting any barricades or warnings around the work site where the accident occurred.

As a result of the accident, Garner had to undergo four surgeries totaling more than $136,000 for her broken arm and complications thereafter. The plaintiff claimed that the accident and subsequent medical procedures led to "significant scarring, disfigurement and general atrophy."

New Orleans attorneys Santra Miller and Earl Sundmaker III represented Entergy.

In their post-trial memo, the defense argued that -"the high volume of pedestrians walking in this area, coupled with the absence of any other trip-and-fall incidents, injuries or complaints about the unbarricaded gas repair site, further indicates that this condition was obvious to all and not unreasonably dangerous in any way."

Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Herbert Cade issued the ruling Jan. 3, after a two-day bench trial followed by post-trial memos from both parties. The judgment orders that Entergy pay 80 percent of the damages, plus the medical costs the plaintiff endured.

Cade found that "the plywood covering the excavation without barricades created an unreasonable risk of harm." He also stated that Entergy "gave no reason why the excavation could not have been fully restored/cemented the next day as it did after report of plaintiff's fall."

Entergy had argued that barricades were in place at the work site where the sidewalk was cut up so work on a gas line could be performed. Entergy also argued that "there is no evidence that [Entergy] received any complaints about the gas repair site or the removal or absence of the barricades and "Caution" tape at any time between December 3, 2003 and December 10, 2003."

The plaintiff cited witness testimony that indicated that the plywood lying on the sidewalk has been used as a walkway by pedestrians for seven to eight days, but that "there was no tape, lights or barricade surrounding the plywood."

Cade ordered that 20 percent of the damages were the responsibility of an "unidentified" individual that moved the barricades. He also said Entergy's "policy and procedure of a fourteen day delay to repair/restore an excavation regardless of where located" is "unreasonable."

Orleans Parish Suit 2004-06838

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