Domnick Cunningham & Whalen Obtains $2.7 Million Verdict for Victim of Fall at PBSC
(PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – April 17, 2018) – Jeanmarie Whalen and Fred Cunningham obtained a $2,700,000 verdict on behalf of Dr. Dwella Nelson, a wife and mother of 2, who suffered a life altering fall when a dangerously rotted and structurally unsound ramp collapsed beneath her at the Palm Beach State College (PBSC) Eissey Campus Theatre in 2015. The 6-member jury delivered a full measure of justice for the Nelson family, holding Palm Beach State College liable for damages caused by failure to properly maintain their property. The trial, case #50-2016-CA-001650-XXXX-MB, was heard in Palm Beach County Circuit Court before the Honorable Judge Donald Hafele.
On May 17, 2015, Plaintiff Dwella Nelson arrived at the Palm Beach State College Eissey Campus Theatre for her five-year-old daughter’s dance recital. Dr. Nelson accompanied her daughter to the designated dressing room trailer which was accessible by a wood ramp walkway leading to the trailer door. Upon exiting the trailer, the walkway collapsed causing Dr. Nelson to fall to the ground below. She suffered significant permanent injuries to her ankle which rendered her unable to walk independently. Her injuries required multiple surgeries and substantial medical care and will necessitate additional surgeries and medical care into the future.
Before the jury trial, Judge Hafele sanctioned PBSC $80,547.66 for failing to produce critical evidence requested in discovery that proved the Defendant was aware the ramp required maintenance. This key evidence ultimately resulted in PBSC admitting liability but disputing the damages in the case.
“Our lives have been dramatically impacted by this incident, and we have waited a long time for someone to be held accountable. Public institutions have an obligation to keep the public safe on their property. Palm Beach State College failed to do so, and the jury agreed they should pay for their negligence,” stated Dr. Nelson after the jury delivered their verdict.
Jeanmarie Whalen, the attorney for the Nelson family added, “Our civil justice system is in place to ensure that wrongdoers are held responsible for their negligence and misconduct. Without those protections, the Nelson family would never have had the opportunity to hold Palm Beach State accountable. We are thankful to the jury for their service and for righting this wrong for the Nelson family.”
Fred Cunningham, co-counsel on the case stated “The egregious negligence in this case is unfortunate, especially for a state institution charged with educating and empowering our next generation. This incident never should have occurred. The ramp should have been repaired or replaced long before this happened. We are grateful to the jury for understanding the magnitude of the loss suffered by the Nelson family.”