Building Owner Wins Denial of Prejudgment Remedy
Case Study

Building Owner Wins Denial of Prejudgment Remedy

September 30, 2021

Goldberg Segalla’s Jennifer Booker, a partner in the firm’s Civil Litigation and Trial group based in Hartford, succeeded in having the Windham Judicial District Superior Court deny a plaintiff’s application for prejudgment remedy in its entirety, effectively reducing our client’s exposure by at least $1 million.

In this matter, a visitor was exiting an apartment building when the bottom step collapsed beneath her, causing her to fall four-to-five feet. The plaintiff claimed permanent and life-altering injuries as a result. In addition to negligence, she also requested punitive damages due to alleged reckless failure to maintain rental property on the part of the defendant, the building owner.

The recklessness allegation created a critical issue for our client. The building owner had liability insurance coverage in the amount of $500,000 per occurrence of bodily injury based on an accident. However, if willful or reckless negligence was found, or if punitive damages were awarded, that would trigger a reservation of rights on behalf of the insurance company, negating the terms of the policy.

In requesting the prejudgment remedy trial, the plaintiff claimed medical bills exceeding $8,000 and lost earnings of approximately $560,000. Presuming recklessness and punitive damages, the plaintiff sought to attach the client’s personal assets in the amount of $1,512,013.

During a virtual evidentiary trial, Jennifer was able to show that neither the plaintiff―who had used the stairs more than 50 times prior to her fall―nor the tenants in the building had ever made a complaint to the building owner about the stairs. In addition, the town building inspector, who was called to the location at the time of the accident, observed there was some wear and tear, but nothing indicating a defect in the stair.

In its decision, the court found that the plaintiff failed to meet her burden of proof to establish the state of mind necessary to prove recklessness by the building owner. This meant the insurance company’s reservations of rights would not be triggered.

Finally, Jennifer was also able to persuade the court that any verdict on the negligence claim would not exceed the coverage limit of $500,000 given the plaintiff’s work history and medical records showing that she reported exercising four days a week and that her pain was markedly improved.

MORE ABOUT GOLDBERG SEGALLA’S CIVIL LITIGATION AND TRIAL GROUP:

Goldberg Segalla’s Civil Litigation and Trial practice group features a roster stacked with litigators and nationally recognized authorities in a number of critical legal disciplines, bringing exceptional strength and savvy to the defense of a wide range of liability claims. Our attorneys have a wealth of experience defending companies of all sizes in various industries, along with municipalities, school districts, and other public entities, in a broad spectrum of matters. We pride ourselves on the aggressive and cost-efficient manner in which we defend all claims. In matters of liability, we employ creative settlement resolutions and resort to alternative dispute resolution (ADR) where possible.