Woman trips at night on raised sidewalk. Jury awards $493,000 and defendant made no offer. Los Angeles County.


61-year-old woman trips on raised sidewalk at night, breaking her arm.  Defendant apartment complex denied fault for tree roots raising the sidewalk.

The Case

  • Case Name: Barbara Ferren v. Valley Village South Apartments, a California General Partnership; City of Los Angeles; County of Los Angeles; State of California/CALTRANS, and DOES 1 through 100, Inclusive
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior, Van Nuys/ LC085961
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, December 18, 2012
  • Type of Case: Dangerous Condition Public Property, Sidewalk Accident, Slip and Fall
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Frank J. Johnston
  • Plaintiffs:
    Barbara Ferren, 61, disability claims adjuster
  • Defendants:
    Valley Village South Apartments, a California General Partnership; Seltzer Doran Company
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $493,287
  • Net Verdict or Award: $443,147 plus $99,049 in costs and CCP 998 interest.
  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: 90% Valley Village South Apartments/Seltzer Doran Company; 10% contributory negligence by plaintiff.
  • Economic Damages:

    Past Lost Earnings: $10,000

    Future Lost Earnings: $10,000

    Past Medical: $17,037

    Future Medical: $96,250

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past: $60,000

    Future: $300,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 4 1/2 days
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 30 minutes
  • Jury Polls: 12 - 0

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:
    Law Office of Bryman & Apelian by Mark D. Apelian, Calabasas
  • Attorney for the Defendant:
    Belofsky & Hanker, LLP by David A. Belofsky, Torrance

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Experts:
    Stephen Kay, M.D., orthopedic surgeon, Los Angeles
  • Plaintiff's Technical Experts:
    Kay Jewell Greeley, civil engineer, landscape architect, certified arborist, Simi Valley
    H. Harvey Cohen, Ph.D., safety engineer, San Diego

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    On October 23, 2008, at approximately 7:30 p.m., plaintiff  had parked her car along the east side of the 8800 block of Variel Avenue, near the corner of Gresham Street, in the city of Los Angeles to visit her daughter. After the visit, plaintiff crossed the street and walked along the east side of Variel Avenue to get back to her car. As she attempted to do so, her left foot made contact with a lift in the sidewalk causing her body to be propelled forward. In an attempt to break her fall, and to protect her face, plaintiff put her arm out in front of her and then made contact with the sidewalk.

    Plaintiff yelled out for help and a Good Samaritan assisted her in calling plaintiff's daughter who took her to West Hills Medical Center where x-rays revealed a proximal humeral neck fracture (upper arm) just below the humeral head.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That the sidewalk in question was raised nearly 2 inches due to the roots of a tree located on defendant's property approx. 15+ feet away from the lifted sidewalk.

    That defendants had a duty to properly maintain and inspect the subject property;that defendants knew that an approximately 2-inch sidewalk displacement was a tripping hazard and knew the consequence could be serious injury or death; that defendants had notice of the hazard; and that defendants failed to repair the dangerous condition.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That it was not their tree's root that caused the lift; that the sidewalk lift condition was not dangerous. That a street light was in close proximity and illuminated the sidewalk. That it was the City of Los Angeles's responsibility to maintain the sidewalk. That plaintiff did not use due care while walking down the sidewalk.

    Defense also argued causation: that plaintiff had a preexisting shoulder injury.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Fractured humerus requiring a closed reduction of right shoulder & physical therapy.

    Plaintiff’s orthopedic doctor (Stephen Kay) advised plaintiff that she has reached a point of maximum medical improvement from conservative management of her humerus fracture and that she could expect no improvement with time. He advised her that with continued worsening over time, she could benefit from at least one surgery (a right Hemi-arthroplasty) and perhaps a second one a number of years later.

    Plaintiff has a history of a right shoulder subacromial decompression, debridement of partial rotator cuff tear and distal clavicle excision that occurred in approximately 2005.  Within the first two weeks after that surgery, Ms. Ferren was diagnosed with a frozen shoulder. She underwent an approximately four-month course of physical therapy treatments.

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: First $495,000, then $350,000
  • Defendant §998 Offer: None

Additional Notes

Judgment entered on April 1, 2013.