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Pennsylvania Partner Secures Defense Verdict in Premises Liability Case

Philadelphia partner Robert L. Sanzo recently obtained a jury verdict on behalf of a company client that operates one of the nation’s largest pharmacy store chains in a case that involved an HVAC technician that fell from a ladder and sustained fractures that left him permanently injured.

In November 2020, a 40-year-old HVAC technician was climbing a fixed 20-foot ladder in our client’s New Jersey store to access the roof-mounted HVAC equipment through a roof hatch. As he was standing near the top of the ladder, Plaintiff claims he lost his grip and fell to the floor. Plaintiff sustained bilateral heal fractures and a fracture of the right tibia at the ankle joint, and later underwent three surgeries that involved implantation of plates and screws. As a result, Plaintiff is unable to return to his job as an HVAC technician.

During trial at the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Plaintiff presented expert medical testimony in support of his strongly disputed claim that his injuries will require a lifetime of medical treatment, including future bilateral ankle fusion or replacement surgery. Plaintiff presented disputed evidence of more than $2.5 million in past and future financial damages against our client and co-defendant, a commercial products manufacturer. The last demand before verdict against our client was $3 million.

Our attorney Rob Sanzo presented evidence that Plaintiff was a trained independent contractor and was in charge of his own work while working in our client’s store. The fixed ladder and roof hatch were safe for use by trained contractors, including Plaintiff who had climbed the ladder in question and accessed the roof without incident or complaint 6-7 times prior to his fall. Rob also contended that Plaintiff had climbed identical fixed ladders more than 300 times in more than 50 New Jersey stores operated by our client without incident or complaint. Moreover, other contractors hired by our client had climbed the subject ladder and accessed the roof without incident or complaint for 16 years prior to Plaintiff’s accident.

Following the eight-day trial that took place in May 2022, the jury returned a defense verdict for our pharmacy chain client, and co-defendant also was found not liable.

Rob focuses his practice primarily on defense of retailers, commercial property owners and tenants in premises liability actions. He has defended hundreds of premises liability cases on behalf of several well-known national retail establishments and one of the country’s largest charitable non-profit organizations. Rob handles a wide variety of claims, such as interior and exterior slip/trip and falls, building structural collapses, falling items and third-party assaults on premises. Additionally, he defends clients against claims for defamation, false arrest and false imprisonment.