Walmart’s self-service water dispenser causes dangerous condition resulting in slip-and-fall.
- Case Name: Moctezuma v. Walmart, Inc.
- Court and Case Number: San Joaquin County Superior Court / STK-CV-UPI-2020-6323
- Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, June 08, 2023
- Date Action was Filed: Wednesday, July 29, 2020
- Type of Case: Premises Liability, Slip and Fall
- Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. George J. Abdallah, Jr.
Plaintiffs: Sylvia Moctezuma, 55
Defendants: Walmart, Inc.
- Type of Result: Bench Verdict
- Gross Verdict or Award: $3,105,00
Award as to each Defendant:
$3,105,000 against Walmart, Inc.
- Contributory/Comparative Negligence: None.
Future medical expenses: $105,000
- Trial or Arbitration Time: 3 days
Attorney for the Plaintiff:
Law Offices of Terrance J. Thompson, by Terrance J. Thompson, Manteca.
Attorney for the Defendant:
Sims, Lawrence & Broghammer, by Mark Lobre and John D. Broghammer, Roseville.
Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):
Benjamin Busfield, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Lafayette.
Defendant's Medical Expert(s):
Michael Cerruti, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Roseville.
Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):
William Martin, AIA, NCARB, architecture and premises safety, Seattle, WA.
Defendant's Technical Experts: None.
Facts and Background
Facts and Background:
On August 12, 2018, plaintiff walked into the Walmart store in Tracy. As she was walking past the self-service water jug dispenser in the front of the store, she slipped and fell in a trail of water on the floor. The water caused plaintiff's right leg to slip forward while her left leg remained behind her torso, hence, resulting in a splits fall.
The incident was captured on video by defendant's CCTV. The video also captured how the water got on the floor. A customer brought two empty five-gallon water jugs into the store and proceeded to fill up the jugs by using the self-service water jug dispenser. After filling up his jugs, the customer walked with the jugs through the store to a checkout stand. Water spilled out of the jugs, creating a trail of water on the floor that stretched from the self-service water jug dispenser to the checkout stands. Approximately 30 seconds after the customer left the area, one of Walmart's managers walked directly through the area. Approximately 90 seconds after the manager walked past the trail of water on the floor, plaintiff entered the store and slipped in the water on the floor. Customers regularly bring their empty water jugs into the store, fill them up, and then take their full water jugs through the store to a checkout line to pay for the water. During trial, Walmart's employees testified that customers often spill their water while using the self-service water jug dispenser.
At trial, plaintiff contended that Walmart, Inc. had actual and constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition. Plaintiff presented evidence showing: (1) Walmart knew customers often spilled their water while using the water dispenser; (2) Walmart knew customers overflow their jugs while using the water dispenser; (3) Walmart's manager walked past or over the water spill shortly before plaintiff slipped and fell in the spill; (4) customers fill up their water jugs and then transport their water to a checkout stand for payment; (5) Walmart did not make routine inspections of the area around the water dispenser; (6) Walmart did not have a policy of routinely inspecting the area around the water dispenser; (7) the flooring around the water dispenser was white and extremely slippery when wet, and (8) Walmart could reasonably anticipate that hazardous conditions would regularly arise around the self-service water jug dispenser. Furthermore, plaintiff contended she suffered a permanent injury that will, for the rest of her life, cause her to experience right leg pain, weakness, instability, imbalance, swelling, and walk with a limp.
Further, that her fall in March 2019 was the direct result of the avulsion injury suffered at Walmart.
At the beginning of the trial, counsel for Walmart, Inc. stated Walmart would not be contesting liability, but Walmart also would not be stipulating to liability.
Walmart contended plaintiff's subsequent fall in March 2019 was not related to the avulsion injury and plaintiff's sciatic pain was also unrelated to the avulsion injury.
Injuries and Other Damages
Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:
Plaintiff suffered a complete right hamstring avulsion injury (i.e., her right semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and long head of biceps femur muscles tore off her hip bone). The tendons and muscles retracted approximately 8.4 cm and balled up in her right hamstring region. The sciatic nerve and muscular branches of the sciatic nerve pass through the area where the avulsion injury occurred, causing plaintiff to experience sciatic nerve pain.
Due to weakness and instability in her right leg, plaintiff fell in March 2019 on her right knee. The fall required surgery to repair a right meniscus tear. Plaintiff's medical expert testified that an allograft surgery could be beneficial to plaintiff, especially as she ages. The surgery involves making a 16-inch incision along her right hamstring, grabbing the balled up tendon, adding the allograph, and anchoring the allograph to the hip. Plaintiff's medical expert also testified plaintiff would need future surgeries on her right knee.
It was undisputed that plaintiff's condition is such that for the rest of her life she: (1) will walk with a limp; (2) will have difficulties walking on uneven surfaces; (3) will have difficulties walking up and down stairs, (4) will have pain, swelling and discomfort, and (5) will be at risk of falling.
- Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: Waived by plaintiff
- Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $174,000
- Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: Waived by plaintiff
- Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: Waived by plaintiff
Demands and Offers
- Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: $1,000,000.
- Defendant Final Offer before Trial: $200,000.