On November 3, 2014, Anna Brennan slipped and fell at a private home in Greenwood Lake. Ms. Brennan, a 66 year old part-time caretaker for the mother of one of the homeowners, sustained hip and wrist injuries when she finished work that day and began to descend an exterior stairway with leaves that covered the bottom two steps. She thought the leaves were only covering the street and fell when thought she was on the bottom step but was actually on the third step from the bottom.

In Ms. Brennan’s ensuing lawsuit, the Orange County jury determined that the homeowners’ negligence caused her injuries and they then awarded plaintiff pain and suffering damages in the sum of $600,000 ($400,000 past – four¬† years, $200,000 future – 16 years).

In Brennan v. Gormley, the appellate court has affirmed both the liability and damages verdicts.

Here are the injury details:

  • Hip – displaced femoral neck fracture requiring hemiarthroplasty (partial hip replacement) with ball and socket

  • Wrist – fractures of ulnar styloid process and distal region of radius requiring surgery to insert pins into (non-dominant) wrist (pins were removed one month later)
  • Four day hospitalization, six weeks home health aide and physical therapy, six weeks of limited ambulation with walker
  • Unable to return to work, climb stairs without difficulty, limited ability to do housework and ability to walk for exercise reduced to one-half mile a day (from 1.5 miles a day)

Defendants’ main argument on appeal was that there was no basis for the liability finding against them because the leaves on the stairs were open, obvious and known to plaintiff. They also argued that the damages award was excessive because plaintiff made a good recovery from her injuries, her continuing pain was sporadic and minimal and her limitations were not severe.