A recent construction injury case decided by a Philadelphia jury illustrates the legal principal of comparative negligence. Many times a client will ask me, “What if I was partly at fault in the accident?” In the case of Bell v. Lafayette College, a roofer fell off a ladder while working in the rain at Lafayette College. He fractured his heel and shoulder and claimed he could not return to work. The Philadelphia jury awarded a $2.38 million dollar verdict. David Beil, 47, sued the college and two contractors, Telesis Construction and Masonry Preservation. The contractors settled during trial for $900,000 each. Beil asserted at trial that despite wet and muddy conditions due to rain, Lafayette College prohibited him and other construction workers from using an indoor stairway to the roof, which would have been much safer to access the roof. Instead the construction worker used a ladder. The defense attorney for the college argued that it was Beil’s own fault for deciding to climb a wet and muddy ladder in the rain without permission. The Philadelphia County jury on Oct. 27 found that Telesis was 50% liable, Lafayette College was 35% liable, Masonry was 10% liable and Beil was 5% liable. It awarded $6.8 million. Because the college was 35% liable, Beil was awarded $2.38 million of the $6.8 million dollar verdict.
This illustrates the legal concept of comparative negligence in a personal injury case, which is one of the main questions to answer in any slip and fall accident. That’s where The Pearce Law Firm comes into play. Under Pennsylvania and New Jersey law, you may still recover damages if you are partially at fault, unless a judge or jury finds you to be more than 50% responsible for your own injury. In other words, if you were found to be 40% at fault, and the property owner was found to be 60% at fault, you can recover damages for your slip and fall equal to 60% of the amount awarded by the jury. This is known as “comparative negligence”. There is no formula for arriving at a precise number for a person’s comparative negligence. You need an experienced slip and fall lawyer to negotiate for your settlement with an insurance adjuster or possibly argue your case to a jury at trial to discuss all of the factors that might have caused the accident.