$43,000 Settlement in Gary, IN
“Step on a crack, break your Mother’s back” is a nursery rhyme that came true for Sally, a mother, while shopping at a Dollar Store in Gary, Indiana during the summer of 2016. Shaw Law Offices see this type of case often — the dangers of a broken sidewalk due to ever-changing weather and the lack of attention of a business landowner.
“Sally” had spent the day pleasantly shopping with her son. She was taking her weekly trip to the Dollar Store to purchase groceries and other items for the family. As she was approaching the sidewalk entrance to the store, her toes caught in a hole where the asphalt had deteriorated, causing the sidewalk to buckle, and creating an uneven level of about the size of a quarter.
The trip forward caused Sally to break her wrist. Even worse, Sally’s job was as a dispatcher for the county, so she was forced to miss work, lose wages and experience significant pain and suffering upon her return to employment.
The Dollar Store was located within a strip mall setting — a familiar site in Indiana shopping. Attorney Jeff “JJ” Shaw visited the site and was able to secure many photographs of the broken and deteriorating asphalt which created several holes near the sidewalk where customers and others would enter the store. These holes were a dangerous condition that had been created over a long period of time. Upon a subsequent visit, Attorney Jeff “JJ” Shaw was able to secure more photos which showed a significant repair of the asphalt had been done by the strip mall owner.
Sally and Attorney Jeff “JJ” Shaw brought a lawsuit against the strip mall for failing to warn of the dangerous condition and/or fixing the asphalt before the injury.
The defense lawyer argued that Sally was the actual party at fault because: (1) she was familiar with the strip mall and its property because she had visited on a weekly basis; and (strangely) (2) the hole was so large that it could be seen in a “Google Earth” photograph of the spot.
Attorney Jeff “JJ” Shaw was able to convince the insurance company adjuster for the strip mall Sally’s time spent at the shopping mall was nothing compared to the landowner who was there 24/7, everyday, and should have seen the hole, recognized its danger and remedied the situation. In fact, the asphalt was fixed eventually a few months after the injury.
It was scientifically known that the problem hole occurred over a long period of time — perhaps years. Sally’s visits, on the other hand, were less than 0.1% of the time when compared to the landowner. Consequently, Attorney Jeff “JJ” Shaw argued that those same percentages of time spent dictated the same percentages be applied to comparative fault of the parties.
After a significant settlement conference failed, the parties were able to strike a deal the next week, after exchanging medical records, bills and other exhibits. The settlement conference (called a “mediation” in Lake County Superior Courts) was a required step before a jury trial would be scheduled in this matter.
Although Attorney Jeff “JJ” Shaw believed the settlement was too small, he advised Sally the jury trial date would occur more than a year later, so she decided to accept the deal.
This illustrates the philosophy of Shaw Law Offices — we do not force a settlement on our clients — we merely do what the client asks us to do. We advise the client of our beliefs regarding whether a settlement is too low, but the final decision is always with the client.
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