Target found negligent when elderly woman falls over a stepladder in aisle. $1.7 million. San Diego County.


Target employee leaves a stepladder and cart full of cardboard in aisle; plaintiff falls over ladder.

The Case

  • Case Name: Hurley-Giddens v. Target Corporation
  • Court and Case Number: San Diego Superior Court / 37-2015-00004635
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Wednesday, September 14, 2016
  • Date Action was Filed: Wednesday, February 11, 2015
  • Type of Case: Premises Liability, Trip and Fall
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Earl H. Maas
  • Plaintiffs:
    Joan Hurley-Giddens, 83.
  • Defendants:
    Target Corporation.
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $1,734,167.08
  • Net Verdict or Award: $1,560,750.37
  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: 90% - Target; 10% - Plaintiff.
  • Economic Damages:

    Past medical: $50,167.08

    Future medical: $834,000

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past pain/suffering: $125,000

    Future pain/suffering: $725,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 5 days.
  • Jury Polls: 10-2.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Law Offices of Otto L. Haselhoff, P.C. by Otto L. Haselhoff (lead counsel), Santa Monica.

    Law Offices of Guy Levy & Associates, Inc. by Guy Levy, San Diego.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Greco Traficante Schulz & Brick by Peter J. Schulz and Farah Hansen, San Diego.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Kevin Owsley, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Poway. (Treating physician.)

    Ron Brizzie, D.O., physiatry, Oceanside.

    Anne Barnes, RN, life care planning, Glendale.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):


  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Leon Boeglin, retail operations, San Diego.

    Carl Beels, M.S., human factors, Escondido.

    Peter Francis, Ph.D., biomechanics, visual perception, Poway.

    Catherine M. Graves, MBA, economics, Fullerton.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Michael Nicholas, retail and store safety, Upland.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    On December 8, 2014, plaintiff was Christmas shopping at the Target on Auto Center Parkway in Escondido, California.  While in one of the aisles, plaintiff tripped over a 23-inch tall stepladder, with an approximately 4-foot handle that had been left unattended by Target personnel. The trip caused plaintiff to fall to the ground.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That the stepladder within the aisle was a trip and fall hazard and also that a shopping cart used for cardboard disposal was directly across from the stepladder, creating a narrowed aisle for the plaintiff to navigate.

    Also, that Target negligently destroyed photographic and videotaped evidence of the circumstances surrounding the incident and the subsequent aftermath. 

    Further, that the stepladder should not have been in the aisle. It does not matter whether or not plaintiff saw the stepladder.

    Defense counsel read plaintiff's deposition testimony in which she said that she did see the ladder just before she tripped, and just 'ran into it'.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That Target was not negligent because its Team Members complied at all times with stocking procedures and the stepladder was an open and obvious visible object within the aisle that was only left unattended for seconds prior to the incident. Furthermore, that plaintiff admitted she saw the ladder multiple times before she fell; and failed to exercise reasonable care knowing she had a history of falls, was a high fall risk, and should have been using her cane or walker to navigate the aisle at the time of the incident. 

    There was no video coverage in the aisle where the incident took place, the video of plaintiff elsewhere in the store was not retained, and no photographs of the scene or plaintiff were taken. 

    Defendant did not dispute that plaintiff fractured her hip in the fall.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Plaintiff sustained a left hip fracture, requiring open reduction and internal fixation. Plaintiff now claims she needs a hip replacement surgery and assistance from an unlicensed caretaker at $21/hr.  Life expectancy now is 6.7 years, per government tables.

Additional Notes

Plaintiff served a C.C.P. § 998 offer for $250,000 on December 14, 2015 before defendant Target Corporation’s MSJ was heard; demand raised to $750,000 after MSJ was denied, and at mediation before Hon. Steven R. Denton about 60 days pre-trial.

Defendant offered $0 prior to MSJ; C.C.P. § 998 for $10,000 served on May 26, 2016, after mediation. No other offers were made.

Plaintiff will be seeking prevailing party and C.C.P. § 998 costs, pre-judgment C.C.P. §998 interest, and RFA cost of proof attorney fees.