Partner Donald Derrico prevails with unanimous defense verdict after two-week trial on behalf of the firm's client, a well-known clothing retailer.
The plaintiff alleged that in 2013 while attempting to descend an interior staircase at the store located in midtown a defect caused her to fall and severely fracture her calcaneus (heel) which required multiple surgeries. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that the staircase in question, which is 10 feet wide, did not have an intermediate handrail which was required by the NYC Building code. The plaintiff also argued that the staircase in question was unreasonably unsafe and even if the code didn’t require an intermediate handrail the store should have installed one when they renovated the store in 2010. The plaintiff asked the jury for $4.5 million.
Derrico argued that the NYC Building code did not require an intermediate handrail as it was not an “interior” staircase as defined by the code and that the staircase had handrails on each side. The plaintiff admitted that she knew there were handrails on each side of the staircase but didn’t use them while she was walking down the middle of the staircase when she fell. As a backup argument, Derrico also argued that even if the jury concluded that it would have been reasonable to install an intermediate handrail the missing handrail didn’t cause the accident nor would it have prevented it. Both the plaintiff and the defense called professional engineers as expert witnesses. After nearly four hours of deliberations, a New York County jury found the firm's client not in violation of a NYC Building code nor did the missing handrail cause the plaintiff's accident.