A 70-year-old grandmother from Florida was in Maryland Christmas shopping with her granddaughters two days before Christmas at a local shopping mall. While still shopping with her granddaughters, the store closed for the night. As the grandmother and her granddaughters were leaving the store, she claimed that the steel overhead security gate suddenly and without warning dropped from the ceiling six feet overhead and struck her on the crown of her head. The Grandmother filed suit against the mall and the retail store claiming that the gate was defective and dangerous to store patrons. She claimed to have suffered a traumatic brain injury which left her with cognitive deficits and persistent headaches. She also claimed to have suffered cervical spine injuries which required her to receive numerous nerve block injections and ultimately a cervical spine fusion. Plaintiff claimed medical expenses in excess of $169,000.00 and pain and suffering in excess of $900,000.00.
At trial, Mr. Barnes successfully argued that the Plaintiff’s medical expert was unqualified to testify about the fairness and reasonableness of the Plaintiff’s medical bills, all of which were from out-of-state healthcare providers. The Court agreed that the Plaintiff’s expert who was a local Maryland physician did not demonstrate sufficient familiarity or knowledge about the billing practices in Florida or Texas to enable him to testify about their reasonableness. Thus, all the Plaintiff’s medical bills were excluded from evidence. The Plaintiff then proceeded with a reptilian theory of damages.
Mr. Barnes carefully cross-examined the septuagenarian about her extensive medical problems that pre-existed the alleged Mall incident. He also highlighted her varying accounts of how the incident happened that she shared with her dozens of healthcare providers – including that she accidentally walked into the gate as it was partially lowered at closing time. Plaintiff called 5 additional witnesses, all of whom were family members. None of her witnesses saw the alleged incident so there was minimal cross-examination.
During his closing argument, Mr. Barnes highlighted the fact that the Plaintiff never called an expert witness who testified that there was a problem with the security gate. Plaintiff didn’t describe the gate, didn’t introduce a picture of the gate, didn’t explain how the gate worked, didn’t identify what part of the gate failed, and had no evidence that this type of incident ever occurred before the subject incident, or in the 5 years since.
The Jury deliberated for 3 hours before returning a unanimous defense verdict.
Congratulations to Mr. Barnes on this outcome!