Nicoletti, Gonson, Spinner, LLP

Richard St. Amand v. U-Haul Co. of New Hampshire, Superior Court, Grafton County, New Hampshire, Docket No, 215-2010-C V-188

In November 2011, in New Hampshire State Superior Court, County of Grafton, Partner Kevin Pinter defended U-Haul Co. of New Hampshire (“UHNH”) at trial in an action stemming from a “slip and fall” on the property of a U-Haul facility located in Tilton, New Hampshire.

Plaintiff, a local fifty-three year old automobile glass installer alleged that he slipped and fell on December 2, 2008 at approximately 8:30 a.m., on ice near a dumpster located toward the rear of the Tilton U-Haul facility. Plaintiff’s employer, Safelite Auto Glass, had rented a storage unit at the facility, and the Safelite employees were directed to retrieve the windshields they needed for a given day’s installations from the facility first thing each morning. On the morning of the accident, plaintiff loaded up the windshields he needed from the storage unit into his company van, and was walking to empty his trash pail into the U-Haul dumpster at approximately 8:30 a.m., when the accident occurred. Plaintiff testified that the ice he slipped on was a thin sheet of “black ice” that he did not see before the accident. At trial, plaintiff testified that after the accident, he noticed that the ice covered an area approximately 30′ wide, despite having testified that he had “no clue” of the size of the ice patch during his deposition. Plaintiff’s co-worker, who was present on the morning of the accident, likewise testified that the subject ice was not only 30′ wide, but stretched 50′ in length as well.

According to plaintiff, while he was on the ground after the fall, a U-Haul General Manager from the facility came to his aid, called an ambulance, and stated that the facility had an ongoing water accumulation problem in the area of plaintiff’s fall. The General Manager testified at trial that he made no such statement, but that he had prior to the accident, on his own initiative, dug a trench on the property to divert flowing water from the property’s walkways, which generally occurred during the aftermath of rain or snowstorms. Plaintiff introduced into evidence uncertified weather records submitted by a “weather observer” from an amateur weather station located one mile from the Tilton facility, which contained daily maximum and minimum temperature readings, but no hourly recordings. UHNH submitted certified weather records from 5 surrounding NOAA weather stations, as well as the testimony of an expert meteorologist, that although no certified NOAA weather station existed in Tilton, NH, he was able to extrapolate the likely hourly temperatures for the site of the accident from the certified records he had obtained. As a result, UHNH’s weather expert testified that the temperature in Tilton fluctuated between 36 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 5 consecutive hours prior to the accident, and thus that no ice was likely present at the accident site at 8:30 a.m.

As a result of the fall, plaintiff sustained a complete rupture of the quadriceps tendon, requiring surgery, and extensive physical therapy. Plaintiff’s treating orthopedic surgeon testified that plaintiff made a good recovery after the surgery, but that he was out of work completely for 6 months following the accident, and that he did not return to his full work duties until 13 months after the accident.

After a full trial and jury deliberations of approximately 15 minutes, the jury returned a defense verdict on November 3, 2011.