Holly Averyt, a contract truck driver, was delivering frozen dairy products and deli goods to a Wal-Mart in Greeley, Colorado. She slipped and fell on ice and grease as she made her way up a service ramp to the store. Averyt suffered severe spinal and back injuries in the fall. She eventually underwent four corrective surgeries, and in doing so, lost the ability to drive her truck and earn a living.

Wal-Mart denied any wrongdoing in the accident. The world’s largest retailer claimed that Averyt never fell on its property, and insisted that no grease existed the night of her fall. Averyt’s lawyers, however, presented evidence at trial showing that city officials had investigated a complaint about grease emanating from a manhole cover in Wal-Mart’s parking lot. City inspectors also found blocked grease interceptors.

Further investigation found that the store manager knew of the problem, and that it had continued for a week. City inspectors later found that two companies, Front Range Environmental and Power Services Co., were working to repair the grease interceptors.

A jury found that Wal-Mart failed to use reasonable care to protect Averyt from a known hazard on its property. It awarded her $15 million in damages for economic losses, non-economic losses and physical impairment.

Responsibility of Businesses to Ensure Safety

The massive jury award exemplifies the responsibility business owners have to the shopping public. They have a duty to use reasonable care in keeping the premises free of dangerous conditions or defects that could cause injuries to customers. Once they are notified of a spill or similar hazard, they must clean it within a reasonable amount of time. Failing to do so could result in premises liability lawsuits.

Frequency of Falls and Potential Injuries

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that one million Americans suffer a slip or trip and fall each year. Falls are the most common cause for visits to the emergency room. A significant portion, 20-30 percent, result in moderate to severe injuries such as fractures, brain injuries and internal complications. The most common injuries are to the spine, hip, forearm and hand. More than 19,000 unintentional deaths come from slip and falls. Such accidents account for 46% of fatalities among elderly Americans.

If you or a loved one has been injured through a slip and fall accident, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to learn more about your rights and options.

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