Conda v. Christmas Tree Shops Inc.
A court can award economic damages for medical expenses, and noneconomic damages for pain suffering, to a business invitee who proves a method of operating a business results in a foreseeable risk that a dangerous condition will take place regularly, if the business fails to take reasonable steps to remedy the danger. In July 2007, the plaintiff, Sandra Conda, allegedly tripped and fell on a landscape pipe that was buried in the ground when shopping at the Christmas Tree Shop. Allegedly, the medial meniscus in the plaintiff's knee was injured, and the plaintiff suffered a 15 percent permanent partial disability to her knee. A medical expert estimated that the plaintiff's surgery and physical therapy will cost about $10,000. The plaintiff sued and presented evidence that the defendant's employees knew about the pipe and failed to remedy the condition. The defendant denied that it was negligent and claimed that if the plaintiff was injured, she did not keep a reasonable lookout, make proper use of her faculties and take proper precautions. Allegedly, the defendant's employees regularly uprooted the pipe, when they moved merchandise. The court found that the defendant's employees knew or should have known about the pipe and remedied it. The plaintiff proved common-law negligence and mode-of-operation negligence. (The mode-of-operation theory of negligence permits a business invitee to recover when injured, if the method of operating a business creates a foreseeable risk that a dangerous condition will regularly occur, and the business does not take reasonable steps to remedy the condition.) The defendant proved that the plaintiff was 20 percent negligent, because she failed to observe and to avoid the pipe. The court awarded economic damages of $21,611 and noneconomic damages, for pain and suffering, of $45,000. The court subtracted 20 percent and awarded the plaintiff $53,289.