Jury Verdict:                        October 18, 2023,  Nassau county, Judge Rizzo

Plaintiff’s Counsel:            HELD & HINES, L.L.P.

Defense Counsel:              O’Connor, Redd, Orlando, LLP by Partner Joseph T. Redd and Associate Lawanda Geter

In the case of Slezak v. Nassau Country Club, plaintiff Grace Slezak, following a July 21st 2014 event at the club, fell down a set of three stairs at the club’s entrance.  Plaintiff, who was 71 years-old at the time of the accident, fractured her left tibia and fibula requiring open reduction with internal fixation surgery.  Plaintiff developed cellulitis in the area of the fractures and required four months of hospitalization.   Plaintiff as a result of the accident alleged an inability to work as a realtor because of the accident, permanent lymphedema and reduced mobility.

During the liability trial, Plaintiff alleged that the subject stairs were not in conformance with the NYS Building Code, that the location of an opened door blocked access to the handrail, and that the presence of “too thick” padding/carpeting on the nose of the stair caused her to slip and fall from the top step to the tiled floor below.

Defendant contended that the NYS Building Code had no application to the steps which pre-existed the date of implementation of the NYS Code sections cited by plaintiff.  Defendant successfully moved to preclude the testimony of plaintiff’s engineer/building code experts, as they were late, based on inapplicable code provisions and/or resulted from an unnoticed and not permitted post note of issue inspection of the subject steps.  As to the condition of the carpeting on the stairs, the defense called the carpet installer, the club manager and the dining room manager, who all testified that the carpet was at all times securely attached to the step nose, that there was no “too thick” carpet condition claimed by the plaintiff and that there was ample access to the handrail  which was not obstructed by the open door as claimed by plaintiff.  The Defense elicited testimony from all witnesses that the subject carpeted stairs had been utilized over the years by hundreds of thousands of persons of various ages without problem, complaint or incident.

On cross examination, plaintiff was questioned on the multitude of theories referenced in the pleadings and the bills of particulars (trip, slip, falter stumble, debris, etc).  Plaintiff in answering the questions contended:  1) that her attorneys did it and that she did not know;   2) that she “looked all the words up on Google” and that they were “synonymous anyway.”  Plaintiff was then confronted her with her own affidavit, which she reviewed,  signed  and notarized wherein she herself adopted the inconsistent versions of how the accident occurred.  Plaintiff was also confronted with her deposition testimony wherein she testified three times that she had placed her mid-foot on the nose of the stair.  At trial she said she “misspoke” at her deposition and meant to say the “ball of her foot.”  Her errata sheet was priceless… she made about a dozen changes to her transcript, correcting singulars to plurals, minor word spelling issues, but on the critical three entries of “mid foot” placement … she never corrected it to “ball of foot” despite her purported failure to “find the right words” at deposition.    The Defense also presented pictures of the seven front steps of plaintiff’s house,  which had a column at the top of the steps  blocking  access to the rail.    While stating she and her guests had no problem getting to the rail from the platform, it was clear from the photos that was not the case, and that the Club’s alleged “blocking door” was absolutely benign compared to plaintiff’s own home step/rail configuration.   On closing argument, it was stressed “rules for thee ..but not for me.”

Last Demand:.        1.5 million  

 Last Offer:                $250,000

Jury Trial:                Three Days

Result:                      After 15 minutes of deliberation, the jury returned a defense verdict.