South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Negligence; Invitee; Damages
$17 Million Damage Award Not Excessive for Injured Physician
Description Appeals court upheld a $17 million damage award for a physician who fell in a hospital and suffered permanent injury that prevented him from continuing his practice. The hospital had violated its duty of care to provide safe premises and the award was consistent with testimony about lost income.
Topic Torts
Key Words Negligence; Invitee; Damages
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Loomis, a neurosurgeon, had surgery privileges at St. Mary's Medical Center. When he was visiting patients in the hospital he stopped in the pantry to get a cup of coffee, as physicians often did. He slipped and fell on a wet spot on the floor, injuring his hip and left arm. Besides suffering pain in his leg, his arm has become mostly useless, making it impossible to perform surgery. Loomis sold his medical practice and sued the hospital for failing to maintain the floor in a reasonably safe condition. The jury awarded him $17 million for loss of income, pain and suffering, and medical expenses. The hospital appealed.

Affirmed. The evidence was sufficient to justify the verdict on behalf of Loomis. A person is an invitee if the possessor of land encourages another to enter to further his own purposes such that there arises the implicit assertion that reasonable care has been exercised to make the place safe for the one who came for that purpose." While Loomis was not an employee of the hospital, physicians were invited to use the pantry and had long done so. Hence, Loomis was allowed to use the premises in the usual, ordinary and customary way. The damages are not excessive as they are based on credible expert testimony about the decline in earning ability. "We will not disturb a jury damage award unless the record is totally devoid of evidence supporting the amount of the award."

Citation St. Mary's Medical Center of Evansville, Inc. v. Loomis, 783 N.E.2d 274 (Ct. App. Ind., 2002)

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