Bill Lewis and Lori Battern represented Defendant Hy-Vee, Inc. in the case of Susan Harris v. Hy-Vee, Inc. before a Greene County, Missouri jury in April 2017. This case arose when Plaintiff slipped on one partially melted ice cube in front of the self-service fountain drink machine in the casual dining area of the Hy-Vee store in Springfield, Missouri in March of 2014. As a result of her slip, Plaintiff did a split type motion and alleged injury to her left hip.
A Greene County jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of Hy-Vee, Inc. after determining that Hy-Vee was not at fault for Plaintiff’s slip.
According to Plaintiff, she went to the Hy-Vee store with her daughter and step-daughter to eat lunch and get groceries. They went to the dining area, bought their food, filled their own drinks, and sat at a booth to eat. They ate for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. After eating, they got up from their table, Plaintiff threw away her trash, and they were walking toward the main grocery section when Plaintiff slipped. Plaintiff did not know how the ice cube had got on the floor or how long it had been present. Plaintiff was wearing a soft-foam neck brace and flip-flops at the time of her slip.
A former employee of Hy-Vee testified that she had cleaned and swept the dining room just prior to Plaintiff’s slip. She testified she had inspected and cleaned the area surrounding the fountain drink machine within minutes prior to Plaintiff’s slip and that there was no ice on the floor at that time.
Plaintiff’s daughters testified they never saw employees cleaning the dining area as they ate. At her deposition, Plaintiff testified she saw employees cleaning the dining room as she ate. At trial, Plaintiff testified that she did not see employees cleaning the dining room that day and, that at her deposition, she intended to mean she had seen employees cleaning the dining room on previous days.
Hy-Vee employees, current and former, testified that Hy-Vee’s policy and training regarding floor safety was to always be inspecting for potential hazards, and if they see anything on the floor, to immediately pick it up or clean it up.
Hy-Vee presented evidence that they had two clerks working in the dining room at the time of the accident whose job duties included checking out customers and cleaning the dining room. They also would have had a bus person on staff.
Plaintiff argued that Hy-Vee failed to use ordinary care in the use of a self-service drink station, that they should have had a larger mat, that the type of flooring was slippery and not reasonably safe, and that there was no clearly defined safety policy or employee primarily assigned to clean the dining room.
Defendant argued that Hy-Vee had sufficient safeguards in place; in particular, that the floor was slip-resistant and mat was of sufficient size based upon industry standards. Defendant further argued that the ice could not have existed on the floor for a long enough time for Hy-Vee to have discovered it using ordinary care which is supported by the fact that a Hy-Vee employee inspected the area minutes before and the fact that the ice cube, which was small and hollow, was not even fully melted at the time of the slip. Therefore, it could not have existed for longer than 2 to 4 minutes.
Defendant did not dispute the fact that Plaintiff sustained a labrum tear in her hip as a result of her slip. Defendant did dispute the fact that Plaintiff would be more likely to require a hip replacement in the future as a result of this accident.
After the closing of the evidence, the jury agreed with Hy-Vee, Inc. and returned a unanimous verdict assessing no fault to Defendant.
Damages claimed by Plaintiff for past medical expenses were $57,582.50. Defendant presented evidence that the amount necessary to satisfy the financial obligation was $14,824.84. Prior to trial, no offer was made by the defendant. During closing arguments, Plaintiff argued to the jury for damages in the amount of $100,000 to $200,000.