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PLAINTIFF’S VERDICT IN TRIP AND FALL CASE REDUCED DUE TO EVIDENCE OF INTOXICATION

Posted by Susan J. Levy and Linda Yu.

In a recent case, Jarvis v. Georgia World Congress Center Authority et al., No. 10EV010884, a Fulton County jury delivered an initial verdict of $400,000 against the Defendant security company for injuries sustained by the Plaintiff, Alicia Jarvis, outside the Georgia Dome. The verdict was subsequently reduced after the panel assigned 43% of the liability to Plaintiff on the grounds that she was intoxicated at the time of her fall.

Evidence revealed that Plaintiff had been tailgating and drinking before a Falcons’ game. Plaintiff, in an attempt to avoid the long lines at the admission gates, decided to take a short-cut suggested by a security worker at the stadium. The short-cut involved crossing a pine straw berm outside of the stadium. As Plaintiff was navigating the short-cut, she tripped and fell, breaking her ankle. Witnesses stated that Plaintiff smelled of alcohol. Records also indicated that she had had beer, as well as rum drinks, that day before the fall. Plaintiff rested without calling any liability experts.

During voir dire, the Fulton County jury panel had expressed concerns about their ability to be fair and impartial when they heard alcohol was involved, but ultimately, the jury did not find that the evidence of Plaintiff’s intoxication barred recovery. Instead, that evidence was used to reduce her recovery by almost half, still resulting in a recovery of $228,000.

This case exemplifies the age-old maxim: No good deed goes unpunished. The bigger lesson for our clients in these cases, however, lies in the jury’s failure to find that Plaintiff’s intoxication constituted negligence equal to that of the security guard. Insurance companies should take note of this case when setting reserves.