Michael J. Guss and David B. Roth Obtained No Cause Verdict In Premises Liability Case After a Five Day Trial
Jones v Collins Motor Sales, Wayne County Circuit Court Case No. 19-010154-NO, Judge Edward Joseph
In this premises liability case, Plaintiff claimed Defendant, Collins Motor Sales, negligently maintained a garage door, which allegedly had to be held in its open position by a 2×4. Plaintiff, a regular worker at the business, alleged that a broken spring on the garage door next to the subject garage door broke, swung across the room, struck him and lacerated his arm. He further alleged that after striking him, the spring ricocheted and grabbed the alleged 2×4, removing it from the track and causing the door to allegedly collapse on Plaintiff’s neck and head, pinning him to the ground.
Defendant argued that Plaintiff’s version of events was a fabrication. The door that allegedly fell on Plaintiff was in good working condition and did not have to be held up with a 2×4 or any other extraneous support. The garage door closer to the building’s offices had been damaged during a break in the days leading up to the incident, causing bending and bowing of the track, bracket, and spring mechanisms of the door. After inspection the morning of the incident, Defendant contacted a door company to assess the damage. Plaintiff was warned of the condition of the door, and was directed not to manipulate it. However, Plaintiff climbed a ladder and attempted to manipulate or repair the damaged garage door, causing the spring to break and the bracket attached to it to come loose, cutting Plaintiff on his arm and requiring stitches.
The evidence supported Defendant’s version of events, where Plaintiff posted on Facebook the same day that he was cut by a garage door spring and mentioned nothing about a door falling on his head or neck. Emergency room notes from the day of the incident similarly recorded the incident. Thereafter, Plaintiff did not complain of any neck or head related issues until after being sent to a neurosurgeon to be treated for unrelated back complaints. Only after Plaintiff was diagnosed by his treating doctor as having potential neck problems did Plaintiff allege a door collapsed upon him.
At trial, the treating neurosurgeon admitted that he could not state, with a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that Plaintiff’s neck condition was the result of a traumatic injury, opining only that it “could” have been related to a traumatic injury. Defendant’s medical expert testified that Plaintiff had a degenerative condition within his neck that was unrelated to any alleged traumatic event. Defendant also presented Plaintiff’s prior medical history which showed pain and limitation symptoms for nearly ten years prior to the complained-of incident. With the above in mind, Defendant argued the medical evidence did not support Plaintiff’s claims.
Plaintiff presented the testimony of his mother and girlfriend that they were nearby and either heard the incident or observed the door being lifted off Plaintiff. However, Plaintiff and these two individuals gave differing versions of events, and their testimony was inconsistent. Moreover, Defendant presented an employee witness who testified the Plaintiff coached him to lie to support Plaintiff’s version of events. Throughout his Complaint, discovery, and two depositions, Plaintiff had insisted that this employee was present at the scene of the incident and pulled the door off him. Yet, the evidence demonstrated this employee did not even work for the company at the time of the incident.
Defendant also presented the testimony of the owner of the business and his wife, who testified consistently that all that occurred was that Plaintiff cut his arm on the garage door that was broken into, that the other door functioned properly, and that it never collapsed on Plaintiff’s neck.
Following closing arguments, Plaintiff requested the jury award a verdict in Plaintiff’s favor and damages in excess of $7.75 million. After 45 minutes of deliberations, the jury returned with a defense verdict, finding that Collins Motor Sales did not negligently maintain a condition on their premises.