Mary Frances Farmer, a 64 year old housewife from Monroe, Georgia visited a bed and breakfast in Dahlonega, Georgia with her husband as a little weekend getaway for the two. After checking in, she and her husband went sight-seeing in Dahlonega and then returned to their room. After watching television for a few minutes, Ms. Farmer decided to go check out the bedroom of their suite. An arched doorway separated those rooms and a single step descended from the kitchen area into the bedroom. Both the top of the step and the landing were tiled in the same color and size tile with no delineation in appearance at all. Even the grout lines for the tiles on top of the step lined-up perfectly with the tiles below creating the visual effect of a level floor. Ms. Farmer believed that the floor was completely level and did not recognize that a step was present. She missed the step completely, lost her balance and fell hard to the floor resulting in a severe fracture to her right humerus (shoulder area) that required surgery to implant hardware to stabilize the fractured bones.
Mrs. Farmer missed four months from work as she tried to recuperate from the extremely painful injury. Once the shoulder healed, her surgeon recommended removing the hardware from her shoulder in an effort to regain more strength and mobility. Almost two years from the date of the first surgery, Mrs. Farmer underwent a second to remove the hardware. This time she missed about three months from her job. Though the surgery helped, Mrs. Farmer still continued to suffer with pain and limited motion in that shoulder.
Mrs. Farmer was hesitant to file a lawsuit against the bed and breakfast. In her opinion, the owner had been a very nice woman and she “hated” to do that to her. We met and I discussed the matter with her. She and her husband were out thousands of dollars as a result of the injury. She had missed time from work and it had worked a great financial strain on them. After I explained that more than likely the B&B had insurance which meant that there was very little chance that any money would be forthcoming from the owner of the B&B, Mrs. Farmer was much more comfortable in going forward with the case.
We filed suit in Lumpkin County just before the statute of limitations in the case ran out. Even though it was quite clear that the step-down that caused my client to fall was virtually invisible at the right angle, the reality existed that a jury could believe that my client simply wasn’t paying close enough attention and that was the cause of her fall. Nonetheless, I believed that the B&B bore the responsibility for the accident and we pushed forward. After conducting discovery we attended mediation in an effort to resolve the case. Unfortunately, we could not come to an agreement and proceeded forward with the case. However, very shortly before trial, we were able to convince the insurance company to offer more money on the case and we settled it for $400,000.00. That settlement has changed my client’s financial life completely. It did not give her greater range of motion nor did it stop the pain, but it lets her rest her head at night knowing her debts are paid and she can afford to seek whatever therapy she needs in order to help her shoulder.
I am grateful for the opportunity to have met such a beautiful, sweet woman as Mrs. Farmer and even happier that I was able to make a difference in her life.