A six-person Chemung County court jury awarded an 83-year-old Elmira woman $550,000 Friday afternoon as a result of a 2013 fall at Highland Hospital in Rochester. Christina Sonsire of the Ziff Law Firm represented the woman in the one-week trial.
The jury of three men and three women deliberated for less than 20 minutes before returning with the verdict in response to a personal injury lawsuit filed in Chemung County’s State Supreme Court in Elmira.
Judge Judith O’Shea presided over the trial and attorney James Wolford of the Wolford Law Firm in Rochester represented Highland Hospital and its corporate owners, Strong Health MCO, LLC, and Strong Partners Health System Inc.
“The jury’s award sends a huge message to Highland Hospital and other regional medical providers that if they are going to encourage people to come for treatment, they need to take basic steps to make sure their facilities are safe,” Christina said. “My client will have to live with chronic limitations from a shoulder injury for the rest of her life, something that greatly interferes with her ability to care for her daughter with disabilities.”
The Elmira woman fell shortly before 6 a.m. on Oct. 16, 2013, while helping her daughter get into a wheelchair in a parking garage near the hospital’s emergency entrance.
“Highland Hospital allowed cement parking stops to be placed inside a pedestrian walkway that bordered the handicapped parking stalls. The parking stops were the same color as the parking garage floor, and lighting in the area was grossly inadequate. My client – who was told to report to Highland Hospital in the early morning for her cancer surgery – was walking near her car when she tripped,” Christina said.
“As a result, my client suffered a severe fracture of her left shoulder, leaving her with a significant loss of range of motion. These limitations make it very challenging for her to care for her daughter in the manner she did before the fall.”
The trial was about much more than the placement of parking stops, Christina said.
“When my client first learned she had cancer, her Elmira-area doctor told her she needed to seek treatment in a bigger city. She decided to go to Rochester, just like many people from our area choose to do,” Christina said. “This case showed Highland Hospital and other regional providers who invite people to travel for their medical services need to do much more to make sure their patients are safe.
“The managers of Highland’s maintenance and security departments were unable to provide any inspection or maintenance records for the area where she fell, they offered inconsistent testimony regarding very basic safety measures in the parking garage, and they even tried to shift the blame to my elderly client by claiming she should have used a flashlight when she got out of her car. Taken together, Highland Hospital gave the impression in the trial that my client’s well-being was not important to them – and the jury took notice.
“Twin Tiers residents can be confident that Ziff Law lawyers are capable of achieving big-city results,” Christina said. “We are not afraid to stand up to big corporations that cause people in our community to suffer injustices. It’s not always easy to do, but the alternative – allowing things like this to happen without doing what we can to bring them to light – would be the greatest injustice of all.”
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