Elderly man awarded more than $244,000 for Niantic slip and fall

A New London jury awarded $244,544 Friday to an elderly Waterford man who suffered a brain injury after he fell while exiting the former Covino's Groceria Italiana at 301 Main St. in Niantic on May 14, 2016.

The building did not have a handrail or ramp as required by fire and building codes, according to attorney Ralph J. Monaco, who represented deli customer Robert Godfrey, now 88. The jury heard four days of testimony last week before Judge Harry E. Calmar and returned its verdict on Friday afternoon after deliberating for less than an hour. The panel found the building's owner, P & H Enterprises LLC, was 75 percent liable for the injury, and that Godfrey was 25 percent responsible. 

"I am very pleased for my client," Monaco said. "This has been a horrible ordeal for him and his family."

According to Monaco, Godfrey fell on his head on to the sidewalk, resulting in a serious head injury. He developed a brain bleed, known as a subdural hematoma, that required two brain surgeries.Godfrey spent more than two weeks in a hospital and an additional eight days in a rehabilitation center. As a result of the brain bleed, he can no longer take blood thinners, placing him at a higher risk for health issues, Monaco said.

"The property was defective and unreasonably dangerous and in violation of both the building and fire codes," Monaco said in an email. "They had an unmarked single step, which is not permitted by the codes. Both the building and fire codes require a railing and/or handicap ramp. In addition, the property violated the codes because the elevation of the flooring between the outside and inside of the exit door was not the same level."

The building is owned by a limited liability corporation whose principal member and agents are Steve Zhang and Ping Zhang of Old Saybrook. They were represented by attorney David S. Williams of the Brown Jacobson law firm in Norwich, who could not be reached for comment Monday. The owners did not attend the trial, but a member of their management firm, Thames Harbor Management, was in court, Monaco said.

Sixty thousand dollars of the settlement will be used to reimburse Medicare for medical expenses it paid on Godfrey's behalf, and Godfrey also incurred significant out-of-pocket expenses, Monaco said.

The jury did not make a finding against the deli business, Covino's, which has since closed. The building is currently occupied by a new business, but the owner has yet to bring the entryway up to code, Monaco said.

k.florin@theday.com

 

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