GRSM Team Secures Directed Verdict of Premises Liability and Negligence Claims on Behalf of Property Management Company

January 2024

Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani Hartford Senior Counsel Geoffrey L. Squitiero, with the assistance of Partner Cullen W. Guilmartin, Associate Evin S. Bell, and paralegal Lisa Waller, obtained a directed verdict on behalf of the firm’s client, a property management company that provides commercial snow plowing and landscaping services to local businesses.  

The plaintiff claimed that she entered a national retailer to purchase various consumer goods. She stated that she did not see any ice or snow in the parking lot when she entered the store.  As she and her daughter exited the store, they decided to cut across the lot and crossed over a raised bed on the way to her car. She stepped down from the raised bed and took a couple of steps before she lost her footing and fell forward, landing on her knees. 

The plaintiff claimed that she slipped on an accumulation of ice in a handicapped parking spot. The defense argued that there was no ice, and that, if there had been ice, the property management company did not have actual or constructive notice that it had frozen that day, prior to her fall. The plaintiff claimed various personal injuries, which required arthroscopic surgery to her left shoulder and an arthroscopic procedure to her left knee. The plaintiff’s treating physician opined that she would likely need total knee arthroplasty of both knees at some point in the future. She disclosed medical bills in excess of $150,000 for past medical treatment.

The plaintiff proceeded to trial against the national retailer, GRSM's client, and the client’s snow-plowing subcontractor. She initially made a demand of between $1 million and $3 million against each of the defendants, which she reduced to a global demand of $800,000 just before the commencement of evidence. 

At trial, Mr. Squitiero convinced the trial judge to sever all third-party claims and to preclude the entry of most of the written contract documents between the firm's client and the retailer. Since the plaintiff’s complaint did not allege any contractual claims, and the retailer did not sue GRSM's client for breach of contract, Mr. Squitiero argued that the contracts were irrelevant. GRSM's client testified that it subcontracted the entire site to the subcontractor and that it never performed any work at the site for the entire winter season. The client’s subcontractor testified that he was the sole contractor who did plowing at the site and that he neither sought nor received any direction from GRSM's client concerning the manner in which he performed his work. 

After three and a half days of evidence, the court granted a directed verdict in favor of the firm’s client. The trial judge ruled that the property management company had neither ownership nor control over the lot as a matter of law and that a reasonable jury could not find that the plaintiff met her burden of proof as to the essential elements of her claim.