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Philadelphia Jury Awards $1.5 Mil. for Parking Lot Accident

A Philadelphia jury awarded $1.5 million earlier this month to a former Mercy Hospital of Philadelphia employee who said he suffered spinal injuries after hitting a cement pillar in his employer’s parking garage.

Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Patricia A. McInerney presided over the four-day trial, which resulted in the jury awarding $1.5 million in damages March 10. The jury found Mercy Hospital negligent and did not find the plaintiff in Mapp v. Mercy Hospital of Philadelphia negligent, according to the verdict sheet.

Antywn Mapp, now 31, was working as a mental health technician at Mercy Hospital when he arrived at the hospital’s parking garage on the morning of Feb. 27, 2008, according to the plaintiff’s pretrial memorandum. He drove up to the roof because no spaces were available at the lower levels. Mapp alleged that, as he began turning into a parking spot, his vehicle slid on ice that had not been cleared, he applied his vehicle’s brakes, but the vehicle continued to slide until he hit a cement pillar.

Because of the collision, Mapp sustained injuries to his lumbar and cervical spine, the plaintiff’s memorandum said. Mapp tried to work in a light-duty capacity at his mental health technician job in which he would sometimes have to restrain patients during violent episodes. But low back and neck pain meant that Mapp had to leave a job that paid him $50,000 a year in favor of a job as a residential counselor that pays him $25,000 a year, the plaintiff argued.

Plaintiff’s counsel Todd M. Felzer, of Swartz Culleton in Newtown, Pa., said the biggest aspect of the damages award was the fact that Mapp’s career as a mental health technician was ended after the accident.

There was no dispute that the accident occurred, but there was a dispute over whether the hospital was negligent or not, Felzer said.

“Their defense was, number one, they contended that there was no defect, there was no ice on the roof,” Felzer said. “Number two that the hospital wasn’t on notice even if there was a defect.”

“It is defendant’s position that plaintiff’s accident was the result of his own negligence and the injuries are not the result of any negligence on the part of defendant,” the defendant’s amended pretrial conference memorandum said.

The plaintiff argued that the hospital failed to inspect the parking garage roof for ice and snow and to treat the ice and snow, according to the plaintiff’s memorandum.

“By failing to anticipate melting, water run-off and re-icing of the parking surface, and to treat same, defendants were negligent and proximately caused the serious injuries sustained by plaintiff,” the plaintiff’s pretrial memorandum said.

Defense counsel Frank A. Gerolamo, of Gerolamo McNulty Divis & Lewbart in Philadelphia, said that both liability and damages were disputed in the case and “it was a credibility issue on whether or not there was ice on the parking lot.”

Regarding Mapp’s damages, the defense contended that he had a lot of pre-existing herniated discs, Gerolamo said.

Gerolamo also said that Felzer did a nice job with the case.

The plaintiff’s medical expert was Dr. Roy Lerman, a pain specialist with Main Line Spine in King of Prussia, Bala Cynwyd, and West Chester, Pa, and the plaintiff’s vocational expert was Rosalyn Pierce, of RP Vocational Rehabilitation in Philadelphia, Felzer said.

The defense experts included orthopedic surgeon Dr. Neil Kahanovitz in West Orange, N.J., and radiologist Dr. Nancy Major of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Felzer said.

While liability and damages were equally contested, neither side presented liability experts, Felzer said.

There was no high-low agreement and no offers extended to settle the case, Felzer said.

There was a stipulation that the hospital owned and controlled the parking garage, which is attached to the hospital, Felzer said.

Pennsylvania workers’ compensation did not apply because Mapp was not in the course and scope of his employment, the plaintiff’s memorandum said.

The defendants have filed post-trial motions, which are still pending, according to the docket.

Defense co-counsel was Christina J. Kubiak of Gerolamo McNulty.