Olmsted County District Court File No. 55-CV-10-7377.
JoMarie L. Morris, Klampe, Delehanty & Morris, LLC, Rochester, Minnesota (for respondents)
Peter M. Waldeck, Waldeck Law Firm, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Chutich, Presiding Judge; Peterson, Judge; and Smith, Judge.
On appeal from a jury verdict in favor of respondents Barbara Machacek (Machacek) and Ronald Machacek on their slip-and-fall claims, appellant Wedum Shorewood Campus, LLC (Shorewood) asserts that the district court erred by denying its motion for judgment as a matter of law. Shorewood asserts that it had no duty to Machacek because icy conditions were open and obvious and that it had no notice of the conditions. Shorewood also argues that the district court erred by denying remittitur because the evidence did not support the jury's award for past medical expenses. Because the record contains evidence that reasonably supports the verdict, we affirm the trial court's refusal to overturn the jury's verdict and its order denying judgment as a matter of law. We reverse the district court's denial of Shorewood's motion for remittitur, however, and remand the issue of damages to the district court because the evidence does not support the amount of the jury's award.
Shorewood owns and operates a large senior residential facility in Rochester. On Saturday, December 22, 2007, around 10:00 a.m., Machacek drove to Shorewood to visit her elderly parents. Snow covered the ground at the time, but the sidewalk Machacek used to enter the facility was clear of ice and snow. During her two-hour visit, the temperature dropped, but no new precipitation fell. After her visit, Machacek left Shorewood through the same door and walked down the same sidewalk that she had entered on. Approximately one-third of the way down the sidewalk, Machacek noticed ice beneath her feet and tried to walk as steadily as possible. She then slipped on the ice and broke her right arm.
Machacek and her husband filed a complaint against Shorewood, alleging that Shorewood's negligence caused her injury while she was on its premises. Ronald Machacek asserted a claim for loss of consortium. Shorewood moved for summary judgment, arguing that Shorewood owed no duty of care to Machacek because the ice on the sidewalk was open and obvious and it had no notice of the icy conditions. The district court denied the motion for summary judgment, concluding that "whether the ice was in fact visible and whether Shorewood should have foreseen" the potentially dangerous condition was a fact question. The case proceeded to trial.
At trial, Machacek testified that she first noticed the ice about a "quarter to a third of the way down" the sidewalk when she first felt it under her feet. She then took one more step before falling backward and breaking her right arm. After her fall, Machacek testified that she sat up and saw the ice on the sidewalk.
Carrie Huntoon, a receptionist at Shorewood, testified that after she was notified of Machacek's fall, she called 911 to report the accident. Huntoon then went outside to assist Machacek. Huntoon walked very carefully on the sidewalk because it was icy. One of the paramedics testified that when he arrived at the scene "[i]t was icy and slick. . . . It was new ice that morning."
Shorewood had a maintenance crew on-site Monday through Friday, but only had a maintenance person on-call on the weekends. After Huntoon assisted Machacek, Huntoon contacted William Frank, the on-call maintenance person, to address the icy sidewalk conditions. Frank testified that, before Huntoon's call, no one had contacted him that day to report icy conditions at the facility. He further testified that, as the on-call maintenance worker, he was responsible for being aware of the weather conditions. Because of dropping temperatures the day of Machacek's fall, Frank was aware that a danger existed of melting snow refreezing on the sidewalk.
At the end of the Machaceks' case-in-chief, Shorewood moved for judgment as a matter of law, and the district court denied the motion. The jury returned its verdict finding both Machacek and Shorewood 50% negligent for the accident. It awarded Machacek $70, 000 for past medical expenses and nothing for "[p]ast pain, disability and emotional distress." ...