By Gerard J. Cipriani Rosemary A. Marchesani 12/20/2013

C & W Lawyers Successfully Defend Multi-Million Dollar Contribution Action

The trial team of Gerard J. Cipriani, Rosemary Marchesani, and Rebecca Sember Izsak successfully defended the largest building maintenance company in the Country in a six (6) day jury trial held in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, against a multi‑million dollar contribution action brought by the co-defendant.  More importantly, the team also prevailed in persuading the jury to enforce a contractual indemnification clause; as a result, co-defendant must reimburse our client for well over a half a million dollar fees and costs for a myriad of experts that helped to establish the biomechanics of the accident. 

The underlying case involved a fall in a well-known office building in the City of Pittsburgh where plaintiff claimed that she slipped and fell on a wet marble floor leading to an exacerbation of a pre-existing asymptomatic spinal stenosis.  Though settling with the building owners, the claim was made that our failure to properly clean the floor triggered her previously dormant spinal stenosis resulting in her inability to walk, required several cervical surgeries and rendered her a quadriplegic on life support.  Past and future medical bills total in excess of $10,000,000 which forced the building owners into the settlement. 

Following payment to the plaintiff, the building owners, at one time working in concert with our client, became adversarial resulting in a myriad of complex evidentiary and procedural issues.  More importantly, we aggressively advanced an indemnification claim pursuant to our contract which read, in part, that if we were required to “clean or wax” the marble floors during regular business hours, any and all claims, including those based in our negligence, were to be defended by the building owners. 

Factually, the case was tried as expected; however, the Trial Judge threatened to reverse his earlier rulings and direct a verdict in favor of the building on our contractual indemnity claim.  We were able to intervene and convince the Judge that the jury should decide the factual question; he finally relented allowing the matter to be placed totally in the jury’s hands.  We were pleased to learn that the jury agreed entirely with our analysis of the mechanics of the incident and, as importantly, that we were in the act of fulfilling the contractually mandated requirements of cleaning floors during regular business hours.  As such, a jury found in favor of our indemnity claim for fees and costs.  

Trial experience was, like most, a chess match throughout and, more importantly, reinforced the capacities of the Firm in successfully defending this matter against a National trial team brought in to assist local counsel in advancing this claim against our client.  The jury verdict reinforces the efficacy of our indemnification language and provides predictability to our client with respect to the National use of this type of language.  We appreciate the efforts of Ms. Sember-Izsak heading up the medical aspect of the claim, Ms. Marchesani who focused on the biomechanics of the fall, and Mr. Cipriani in controlling the information flow, as well as the message to the jury.  Special thanks to our client in having the trust and confidence in us to shepherd this matter through a hostile environment.