Store Video Is Key To Slip-Fall Suit Settlement
Footage contradicts Wal-Mart manager's insistence that floor was dry
Store surveillance video showing employees cleaning up water near a drinking fountain shortly after a woman fell gave Decatur solo Aaron Marks the leverage he needed to secure a significant premises liability settlement with Wal-Mart.
Marks said he and Andrew Lynch, another solo attorney who assisted in the case, used the store footage during depositions they took of Wal-Mart employees working near the scene, including an assistant manager who insisted there was no water on the floor when Marks' client slipped and fell.
While watching the first hour of the video, leading up to the fall, the assistant manager "was basically saying there were safety sweeps going on the whole time. Every time someone passed by, we'd ask her what was happening, and she'd say a safety sweep," Marks said. "So, Andrew and I said, 'OK. Let's get her to commit to that and establish that Wal-Mart should have seen the water when my client fell. And it worked perfectly."
While watching the second half of the video, after Marks' client fell, the assistant manager began to backpedal, said Marks.
"We saw her start to clean up the water. We asked her what she's doing and instead of being, like, 'I'm cleaning water,' she started saying basically she doesn't know," he recalled.
Marks would not reveal the amount of the settlement reached with Wal-Mart Stores East, a Wal-Mart subsidiary, on Sept. 9 because he signed a confidentiality agreement.
"The settlement achieved was multiple times [the client's] medical damages," was all he would reveal.
According to a demand letter that Marks sent in March to Wal-Mart's attorney, Howard Lessinger of McLain & Merritt, Marks' client incurred nearly $241,000 in bills from medical providers. Lessinger did not respond to requests for comment. Wal-Mart spokesman Dan Fogelman would not respond to the Daily Report's questions but did issue a written statement: "We take the safety of the customers in our store very seriously and, while this was an unfortunate incident, we are pleased to have been able to resolve the issue with the family."
The video and depositions weren't the only twists in the case that lingered for more than 2½ years but settled in mediation in one day. Thomas W. Tobin of Henning Mediation & Arbitration Service handled the mediation.
Lien Le, 41, a naturalized American citizen born and raised in Vietnam, worked at her husband's nail salon located inside a Walmart in Kennesaw. She suffered back injuries on March 21, 2011, after slipping on water leaking from a nearby fountain as she was returning to the salon from the women's restroom at the front of the store.