John Sciacca recently obtained a defense award in a binding arbitration. The arbitration arose out of a case involving premises liability. This was a third party matter that was originally set for trial. Pursuant to the plaintiff’s request, the parties stipulated to binding arbitration.
In this matter, the plaintiff was a tenant of the defendant’s property. The plaintiff had lived on the defendant’s property in excess of two years prior to the incident occurring. According to the plaintiff, she allegedly fell upon a stair in the rear of the property that allegedly moved when she stepped upon the stair. John Sciacca and his client argued that the stair did not move and even if it had, his client had no notice of the alleged dangerous condition, i.e. the stair moving.
At the binding arbitration, John successfully impeached the plaintiff. Highlighted on cross-examination was that the plaintiff originally testified in her deposition that it was a bottom step that had moved and caused her to fall. During her deposition she highlighted with a pen the bottom step that allegedly moved when she stepped on it. However, at the arbitration, she changed her story to the top step with a crack in it that allegedly moving and caused her to fall. John highlighted the inconsistencies of her testimony in regards to the plaintiff’s deposition testimony and her arbitration testimony regarding what caused her to fall.
Furthermore on cross-examination, John was successful in impeaching the witness regarding her alleged injuries. Both in prior deposition testimony and verified written discovery responses, the plaintiff denied having any preexisting injuries. At the arbitration, Sciacca presented evidence that the plaintiff had, in fact, suffered injuries to her neck, low back and left wrist prior to the alleged incident. Specifically, John presented documentary evidence that the plaintiff had, in fact, been complaining and presenting to a chiropractor for injuries to her neck, left wrist and low back within three weeks before the alleged incident without any indication of resolution of those complaints.
Using the impeachment evidence that came to light during the binding arbitration, the binding arbitrator found that the plaintiff lacked credibility in regards her story as to what caused her to fall. Furthermore, the binding arbitrator found that John Sciacca’s client was an excellent and credible witness. Specifically, John’s client testified that although the top stair was, in fact, cracked, he was not aware of either stair being loose prior to or even after the incident had occurred. Sciacca’s client testified that he was routinely on the property and used the subject stairs. John Sciacca’s client testified that he had to use a crowbar in order to remove and replace the stairs where the alleged fall occurred.
At the arbitration, the plaintiff demanded in excess of $40,000 for damages. Ultimately, the binding arbitrator ruled in favor of John and his client. He found absolutely no liability on the defendant. As a result of the defense award and the defendant serving a prior 998 for $3,500, John Sciacca and his client will be seeking recovery of post-offer costs and expert fees in excess of $8,000.