$3,040,000 Verdict in Gary, Indiana for Blackjack Dealer Awarded for Slip and Fall on Ice in Trump Casino Parking Lot
“Joe” (not his real name) worked as a blackjack dealer for one of the casino boats located at Buffington Harbor in East Chicago Indiana.
He went to work on a February night when he slipped and fell on an icy patch in the Trump Casino parking lot (operated by Buffington Harbor Trust). He suffered spinal injuries, which necessitated surgery due to a herniated disk in his lower spine.
The surgery was called a “discectomy” which is a surgery to remove lumbar (low back) disc material that oozed out of its protective coating and pressed upon a nerve root of the spinal cord. An orthopedic surgeon excised (removed) the jelly-like substance that was causing Joe great pain by pressing up against a nerve in his lower spine.
The only problem? He developed a bone infection called “osteomyelitis” which literally began to “eat” his bones away in his lower spine. A prosthetic metal cage was inserted into his lower back for stability. He never fully regained the ability to bend or walk without pain.
As a result of this surgical complication, he could not complete his job as a blackjack dealer and was fired.
Although his medical bills were paid by a worker’s compensation insurance company (because he was on the “job” as he was entering work that night), he was not given any termination pay.
Additionally, Indiana laws called “subrogation” required Joe to pay back the worker’s compensation insurance company if he recovered any monies from suing the landowner – Buffington Harbor Trust (not the same entity for which he was employed).
Joe was prevented by the “exclusive remedy” law in Indiana which prevents an employee injured on the job from suing his employer. This limits an injured person on the job to seek only worker’s compensation remedies.
Joe didn’t know where to turn. That’s when he called Attorney Jeff JJ Shaw, who determined that Joe’s employer was not responsible for maintenance of the parking lot in which he fell, but rather the landowner had a contract with a snowplow company.
Attorney Jeff JJ Shaw was able to acquire the contract between the landowner and the snowplow company where he discovered an interesting fact – although the snow plow company was required to come and plow the casino parking lots whenever snow accumulation exceeded 2” inches or more of snow, there was no provision in the contract that necessitated a visit by the same snow plow company to check for ice buildup whenever there was not a 2” inch snowfall.
In other words, unless there was a significant snowfall, there was nobody – not the casino, not the snow plow company, not the landowners – who inspected the casino’s parking lots for ice when it did not snow.
Every customer, patron, and employee was literally on their own when it came to parking lot safety unless it snowed. Ice buildup was simply ignored by all.
A 3-day jury trial in front of the late Honorable Gerald Svetanoff (a true gentleman and scholar) got heated when witness after witness for the snowplow company and casino refused to accept responsibility.
In fact, the landowners and its lawyers argued that Joe was to blame and he should have been aware of the ice and that the parking lot was clear (even though they admitted nobody did an inspection).
Attorney Jeff JJ Shaw was able to locate the original contract between the casino and the plow company which showed the company had been called to the scene but had not been called back by the casino after the ice had continued to accumulate after the plows had left earlier that same night.
Eventually, the casino fired the worker for being unable to perform his duties.
The jury found for the worker and awarded $4,000,000 (reduced to $3.04M for comparative fault) in damages.
One interesting note was the concept of consortium, an old legal theory that a wife should be entitled to damages when a spouse is severely injured. Due to the fact that Joe’s wife divorced him during the proceedings, the jury awarded her $0.
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