Proving that one false step can change the rest of your life, a Pennsylvania man was left blind after falling off an unmarked step leaving a shopping center. And proving that there may still be some justice left in the world, a jury awarded him $4M in a lawsuit against the property owner.
It may be the largest personal injury award in York County, according to the man's attorney, and comes four years after the incident. Here's a look.
One Dangerous Step
Bill Waite was leaving Steinmetz Coins and Currency in 2012 when he fell down an unmarked step along an otherwise level sidewalk. According to his lawsuit, Waite, who for many years had little to no functional eyesight in his right eye, struck his left eye against a chair sitting outside a tattoo shop, leaving him effectively blind.
Waite's lawyer, Craig Milsten, told the York Dispatch his client loved to golf, play with his dog, and spending time with his family before the accident, noting that two of his great-grandchildren were born since he went blind. Since the fall, Waite said family gatherings feel like he's "sitting in a dark closet listening to people on the outside."
Based on the lack of marking or signage to alert pedestrians to the step, the jury found the property owner negligent in Waite's fall, awarding him $4 million in damages. Waite declined to comment on the case, telling the Dispatch only that he "wished the incident had never happened and he hoped the money would make life easier for his wife."
Many Dangerous Properties
Waite was 80 years old when he fell, and elderly slip-and-falls are unfortunately common. Lawsuits following elderly slip-and-falls are based on the idea that property owners are responsible for reasonably foreseeable conditions arising on their property. Therefore, if there was a dangerous condition on the premises which the owner knew or should have known about, he or she can be liable for injuries on the property due to the dangerous condition.
According to the Dispatch, the property where Waite fell was sold in January 2016. But Milsten said the step that blinded his client remains unmarked.