Jury Sides With Hospital In Ruling Untied Shoelaces Caused Woman's Fall

Tully Health Center in Stamford.
Tully Health Center in Stamford.

Tully Health Center in Stamford. Photo: Google

A Stamford Superior Court jury has sided with the defense after a 60-year-old Norwalk woman claimed she had a pulmonary embolism after her shoelaces got stuck in a crack and caused her to fall in a stairway at Tully Health Center.

The six-person jury met for about one hour Thursday before rendering its verdict in favor of Stamford Health, which operates the health center. Donna Filardo, who was seeking $500,000 for her injuries, and $12,000 a year for the rest of her life for residual pain, ended up getting nothing from the jury.

The case hinged on whether Filardo tied her shoelaces before walking up a flight of stairs at the health center in April 2016. Filardo said her shoelaces were double knotted when she fell. In her April 2017 lawsuit, Filardo said she suffered a pulmonary embolism, fractured left femur, left lower extremity pain, and chest pain.

Filardo was at the facility because she was rehabbing from cardiac surgery and was on her way to the workout facility when she fell.

The defense, according to Stamford Heath's co-counsel Eric Stockman of Bridgeport's Stockman O'Connor Trial Attorneys, did not question the injuries Filardo suffered. Instead, the defense claimed her untied laces got stuck in a gap where the stairs met the wall.

"We had a two-pronged argument," Stockman said. "Our primary argument was that the gap, which was 1/16 of an inch, was not unreasonably dangerous and was not a defect. Rather, it was a normal gap. It had never been an issue since the facility opened in 2000. This gap was not where you'd expect it would come into contact with foot traffic because it was right against the wall. The jury found it was not a dangerous condition because it was not where people would be expected to walk.

"There was no way the lace became lodged in a 1/16 of an inch gap without dragging on the ground," Stockman added. "The only way what happened to Ms. Filardo could have happened is if her shoelace was dragging from her shoe. It had to be untied or tied really, really shabbily."

The plaintiff's lawyer called several witnesses, including Filardo, who discussed the incident and the injuries she suffered. The defense called no one, but, Stockman said, he used the actual Skechers sneakers as props in his closing. The trial lasted three days.

"I think we were able to convince the jury that her shoelace had to be dragging significantly to even be a factor in her fall," Stockman said. "I showed the jury the actual sneakers and, when you untie the laces, they ended up looking like they could drag six inches from the sole of the shoe. I held up the sneakers to the jurors and the laces were hanging off the sneakers."

Andy Savvaides, of Stamford's Tooher Wocl & Leydon, represented Filardo. Savvaides said Tuesday that "this was a hard case and Eric Stockman did a great job defending his client."

In addition, Savvaides said: "I've tried a lot of cases and I knew, from day one, that this would probably go to trial. But I liked Donna and she needed a voice."

Stockman's colleague, Sandy Roussas, played a major role in the case. Roussas handled the bulk of the witnesses and did the opening.