Dangerous Condition: Sacramento Office Prevails at Trial

May 6, 2019

In July of 2018, Graham M. Cridland and Gabriel R. Ullrich of the Firm’s Sacramento office were retained to represent Josh Heckman Construction, Inc., a general contractor, in relation to an alleged trip and fall incident which is said to have occurred at Woodrow Wilson Manor, a senior housing apartment complex in Yolo County, California.  Plaintiff Allure Nicholls previously filed suit against Eskaton, Inc. and Eskaton Properties, Inc., the management company for the apartment complex.  In turn, Ms. Nicholls filed suit against Heckman Construction and promptly filed a motion for preferential trial setting, which the Court granted, drastically limiting the time for discovery and preparation by counsel for Heckman Construction.  

Throughout discovery and during trial, Plaintiff alleged that Heckman Construction and the Eskaton parties had permitted a dangerous condition to exist at the property and that Heckman Construction was negligent in its construction of the parking lot, causing her to trip and fall.  More specifically, plaintiff claimed that certain aspects of the as-built condition of the parking lot were contrary to the design obtained by the general contractor, Heckman Construction, and alleged that those changes were a substantial factor in causing her harm.  

A Motion for Summary Adjudication filed by Ericksen Arbuthnot on behalf of Heckman Construction was successful in eliminating plaintiff’s cause of action for premises liability. 

At trial, plaintiff claimed various injuries secondary to the alleged trip and fall incident including fractures of her tibia, patella, and wrist, resulting in loss of independence, permanent disability, pain and suffering.  She also claimed significant cognitive changes, memory loss, depression, anxiety, and changes to her activities of daily living as a result of the alleged trip and fall incident.  

Plaintiff further contended that in January 2018, as a direct and proximate result of her June 2016 fall, she fell again, resulting in a compression fracture of her thoracic spine.  This fracture, plaintiff contended, caused permanent disability and residual pain.

In defense of Heckman Construction, Mr. Cridland and Mr. Ullrich argued that the condition of the parking lot, though different from the plans and specifications, was consistent with industry standards and not unsafe.  Mr. Cridland and Mr. Ullrich also presented evidence of the detail pages of the plans, which assisted the jury in understand the change orders and other decisions made by the contractor.  Additionally, Mr. Cridland and Mr. Ullrich presented expert testimony explaining why the as-built condition of the parking lot did not cause, or contribute to, the subject trip and fall incident.

The trial of this matter began on April 2, 2019 and concluded with a defense verdict in favor of Heckman Construction on April 29, 2019.

Graham M. Cridland is a partner in the Firm’s Sacramento office and Gabriel R. Ullrich is a senior associate in Sacramento.