By WILLIAM SNOWDEN
After a two-day civil trial last week, a jury returned with a verdict of no damages for a man suing Dollar General for a slip-and-fall he suffered at the store on Spring Creek Highway back in March 2021.
Kevin Murphy claimed he went into the store to shop and used the restroom, but slipped and was injured because of water on the floor.
Murphy, represented by the Morgan & Morgan law firm, was asking for more than $1.67 million because of injuries.
But the store manager testified that he had checked the store’s bathrooms around 8 a.m. and there was no water on the floor. Surveillance video from that day show the manager picking up something off the floor of one of the bathrooms, and he told jurors that he kept the bathrooms fastidious. Murphy was the first person to use a restroom around 8:45 a.m., according to the manager and the surveillance video.
Murphy came out of the bathroom and told the manager he had fallen because of water on the floor. The manager did an incident report, but Murphy did not apparently report severe injuries at the time.
Murphy had some existing medical conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome that he claimed was exacerbated by the fall. He also claimed injuries to his elbow, a torn rotator cuff in his shoulder, nerniated discs in his neck.He had surgery for some of those problems and had amassed some $49,000 in medical bills.
In seeking damanges, Murphy’s attorneys asked for the medical bills, plus future medical bills estimated at $159,000; non-economic damages amounting to $288,000; plus $1.1 million for pain and suffering for the rest of his life.
The theory of the case was that Dollar General employees had been negligent in leaving a hazard, such as a slippery substance on the floor, that could cause injury.
Dollar General’s attorney, in closing, told jurors that Murphy’s case left more questions than answers.
“The way he fell doesn’t make sense,” the Dollar General lawyer said, adding that it was odd that Murphy took photos of the bathroom immediately after the fall, asked the manager to do an incident report but never showed him the photos of water on the floor, “went to a doctor within three days and already had an attorney.”
During the testimony of the store manager, he said he thought it odd a complaint of water on the floor when he’d just checked the bathrooms. If he had seen someething on the floor, he would have cleaned it, he said.
Asked by a Dollar General attorney, “Is it possible Mr. Murphy caused that spill?”
The manager answered: “It’s most likely.”
The jury deliberated for a couple of hours before returning its verdict.
The case was presided over by Wakulla Circuit Judge Layne Smith.