Palm Beach, FL—A South Florida retail property owner's paint job on an access ramp led to a woman's traumatic brain and spinal injuries, an attorney representing the woman argued as trial opened Wednesday against the property owner and painting contractor. Sumner v. Lantana Palm Beach Retail, et al., 2010CA11199.
Sharon Sumner, 61, allegedly suffered severe injuries to her head and back in a 2007 fall on an access ramp in Lantana Square in Lake Worth. "The life of a wonderful woman, a very useful, productive woman, a very caring, bright, energetic woman, was sent cascading, and out of control, and into illness," said Neufeld, Kleinberg, & Pinkiert's David Kleinberg, attorney for Sumner, a real estate agent who worked at the property, owned by Lantana Palm Beach Retail LLC.
Kleinberg likened Sumner's injuries, which allegedly include brain and spinal cord damage, to shaken baby syndrome. She has had 5 surgeries to repair her spine and nerves, has incurred $672,000 in medical expenses, and is expected to rack up $1 million more, he said. She is asking for compensation "in the millions."
Kleinberg told jurors that a 2007 paint job of the shopping center's access ramp made the previously safe surface dangerously slippery, which led to Sumner's fall. "There's an old expression: the expression goes, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it," Kleinberg said. "They created an exceedingly slippery and unreasonably dangerous surface from where there was once a good surface."
Lantana hired WGM Quality Painting Inc. to paint the walkways, which also included a sand finish to make the surface slip resistant. However, 2 months after the walkways were painted, WGM was called to add more sand. "The only reason to bring them out for sand is it was slippery," Kleinberg told jurors.
However, Shendell & Pollock's William Peterfriend, who represents WGM, countered in his opening that Sumner had walked the ramp hundreds of times without complaint. "Hundreds of times up and down, up and down, up and down the ramp," Peterfriend said. "She never once thought that it was too slippery. She never once slipped on the ramp. She never told anyone that she felt the ramp was a hazard."
Lantana's attorney, Matthew Martin, of Gaebe, Mullen, Antonelli & DiMatteo, told jurors inspections of the ramp established its slip resistance, and he challenged the circumstances surrounding the fall. "The plaintiff in this case doesn't know how she fell. She doesn't remember the ramp being wet," Martin said. "She's never had a problem with the ramp before this fall, and she never had a problem with the ramp after this fall."
Trial in the case is expected to go into next week.
Sharon Sumner is represented by David Kleinberg, of Neufeld, Kleinberg, & Pinkiert.
Lantana Palm Beach Retail LLC is represented by Matthew Martin, of Gaebe, Mullen, Antonelli & DiMatteo.
WGM Quality Painting Inc. is represented by Shendell & Pollock's William Peterfriend.
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