Case details

Dangerously placed ping-pong table caused nose injury: plaintiff





Result type

Not present

disfigurement, face, lip, nose, scar
On Dec. 17, 2014, plaintiff Peter Griese, 23, a television production assistant, was with a group of co-workers at Mom’s Bar & Lounge on Santa Monica Boulevard, in Los Angeles. As he was walking through a doorway, Griese tripped and struck his face on a folded ping-pong table that was near the doorway. He lacerated the tip of his nose on a metal bracket on the table. Griese sued the operator of Mom’s Bar & Lounge, 12238 Santa Monica Inc. The lawsuit alleged that the bar’s staff negligently created a dangerous condition that caused Griese’s accident. Griese testified that he was walking toward a doorway, making his way through a crowded area, when something caught his left foot, causing him to lose his balance, rotate counterclockwise and fall into the table. He claimed that he was not sure what caught his leg and caused him to fall because the bar was extremely dark and crowded, but that he believed it was the leg of the ping-pong table. He also claimed that he drank approximately four to five drinks over a five-hour period that night and that he was not intoxicated prior to the fall. One of Griese’s co-workers testified that he saw Griese fall in the manner Griese described, but that he did not see what caused Griese to fall initially. Another co-worker testified that he did not see Griese fall, but that he saw Griese earlier in the night and that Griese did not appear intoxicated at that time. The witness further claimed that he tripped over the same ping-pong table while walking through the same doorway earlier in the night. Griese’s safety expert opined that the lighting condition of the area of the bar where Griese fell was below code and that the placement of the folded table near a doorway was unsafe. The expert also opined that the bar could have easily and economically remedied both of the dangers. Plaintiff’s counsel argued that the code violation was evidence of negligence per se. Defense counsel argued that there were inconsistencies with Griese’s and his co-workers accounts, as one said the table was located in a hallway, rather than the back area, where it was actually located. Counsel also argued that the table was an open and obvious hazard and that Griese’s own negligence caused his injury. Two employees of 12238 Santa Monica who were working on the night of the incident testified that the bar was more crowded than usual for a weeknight and that one security guard who was scheduled to be positioned near where the injury occurred was pulled from his post to serve drinks. They also testified that the ping-pong table had a designated shed, where it was to be stored when not in use, but that it had been left out that night. They further testified that, prior to the incident, they decided to stop serving drinks to Griese and his friends because they appeared to be heavily intoxicated. In addition, the security guards also claimed that Griese and his group of friends appeared to be very intoxicated, loud and disruptive prior to the accident. Defense counsel argued that Griese was “fooling around” on the table by attempting to climb on it when he slipped and fell. A patron of the bar that was present that night also claimed that he saw Griese climb on the folded table and stand on its edge in an attempt to perform a backflip, but that Griese slipped and lacerated his nose. The defense’s biomechanical expert testified that if Griese was walking toward the doorway in the direction he described, it would have been physically impossible for him to rotate and fall into the interior of the folded table, where all eyewitness testimony said he landed. The expert also opined that the angle of Griese’s nose laceration was inconsistent with the direction in which Griese described falling., Griese claimed he suffered a severe laceration to his nose and nearly lost the tip of it. Bar staff offered to call an ambulance, but Griese declined and, instead, called an Uber several minutes later. He then left for the hospital with some co-workers. At the emergency room, Griese’s nose was sutured and bandaged, but he was informed that he might permanently lose the tip of his nose because the laceration was so deep. Griese testified that he spent the next several weeks with severe pain to his face and nose and that he had to live with a large, embarrassing bandage on his face while the laceration healed. Once the bandage was removed, Griese was left with a scar on the left side of the tip of his nose and on his left, upper lip. He later consulted with a plastic surgeon, whom was later retained as the plaintiff’s expert, and whom recommended a scar revision and reconstruction, which Griese underwent on Aug. 1, 2016. Griese claimed that his caused him physical pain, mental suffering, and permanent scarring. He claimed that while the appearance of his scars has improved, he feels that both scars are still visible upon close inspection. He also testified that while he is grateful that his expert could improve the appearance of his scars, he is still self-conscious of the scars and that they are the first things he sees when he looks in the mirror. Griese sought recovery of $24,401.52 in past medical costs, which included plastic surgery consults, the scar revision surgery and the E.R. visit. He also sought recovery of damages for his pain and suffering. Griese did not make a claim for future medical expenses, lost earnings, or property damage. Plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award Griese approximately $480,000 in total damages. Defense counsel did not contest the necessity of any of Griese’s medical care or the reasonableness of his medical bills.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Van Nuys, CA

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