Steinberg v. Winn-Dixie Stores Inc is an appeal during a lawsuit in a South Florida court.
Steinberg sued Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., Equity One Realty & Management FL, Inc. (“Equity One”), and G & I VI South Florida Portfolio SPE LLC (“G & I”).
She claimed that she suffered personal injuries after she tripped and fell near the entrance of a Winn-Dixie store.
The 4th District Court of Appeal handled the appeal. It issued an order on August 28, 2013.
There are fourteen counties in the Second District, which include: Pasco & Pinellas, Hardee, Highlands, Polk, DeSoto, Manatee, Sarasota, Hendry, Hillsborough, Charlotte, Glades, Collier and Lee. I assume that the accident happened in one of these counties.
The accident likely happened in one of those counties. If you trip and fall at Winn Dixie, you likely will need to sue them in the circuit court that governs the county where the fall happened.
Equity One managed the shopping center where the store was located. G & I owned the shopping center.
According to the lawsuit, Steinberg tripped on a hole in the ground where a guardrail had been removed from a handicap access ramp.
Take Photos of the Dangerous Condition Immediately
Tip: Get out to the accident scene and take photos of the dangerous condition.
Don’t rely on Winn Dixie, the mall’s property manager or shopping center owner to have surveillance video of the fall. The incident scene may quickly get fixed.
You want to have photos of the dangerous condition that caused your fall. Having pictures of the hazard will help you estimate the settlement value of the case.
Back to the case…
In this case, the shopper suffered a broken tibia (lower leg bone).
Shortly after the fall, Steinberg’s attorney and his investigator visited the site of the incident and spoke with a Winn Dixie manager. The manager made certain statements regarding the trip and fall.
Equity One and G & I noticed the deposition of Steinberg’s trial lawyer.
Fun fact: Equity One owns many shopping centers in Florida.
The trial judge denied Steinberg’s motion for a protective order and allowed her attorney’s deposition to be taken.
At the deposition, Steinberg’s trial counsel testified that a few days after the incident, he spoke with the store manager, Reggie Rigaud, in the presence of his investigator. Rigaud said that about two weeks before the incident, he had removed the railing from the ramp because a customer complained that it was “wobbly.”
Tip: If Winn Dixie removes a railing from a ramp, and this creates a dangerous condition, this may constitute negligence.
Winn Dixie should use reasonable care to fix the dangerous condition or warn invitees of its presence.
The Winn Dixie manager placed the removed railing back in the produce area of the store. He did not report the wobbly rail to the property manager.
Tip: If Winn Dixie removes a dangerous condition and doesn’t report it to the property manager, this may help the liability aspect of the case. It makes Winn Dixie look bad.
The shopper’s attorney recalled Rigaud saying, “Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t.”
Winn Dixie’s manager, Rigaud, later gave a conflicting account of this conversation in his deposition and denied making these statements. He testified that a customer had complained about the loose railing.
Case Pointer: It helps an injured person’s case if a supermarket employee admits that a customer complained about a loose railing before the fall. This shows that the store was on notice of the wobbly handrail before the fall.
Rigaud denied personally removing it or knowing who removed it or when it was removed.
He testified that he did not tell the shopping center owner or property manager about any problem with the railing. Rigaud denied telling anyone that he removed the railing or that he placed it in the produce area. He testified that the railing was placed outside by a dumpster.
Winn Dixie then asked the court to disqualify the customer’s trial attorney, arguing that he was a necessary witness on the subject of a disputed admission by Rigaud and that he was thus prohibited from representing the shopper at trial by Rule Regulating the Florida Bar 4-3.7.
Rule 4-3.7 provides, in relevant part: “A lawyer shall not act as advocate at a trial in which the lawyer is likely to be a necessary witness on behalf of the client.”
The shopper objected, arguing that Rule 4-3.7 did not apply to disqualify her trial lawyer because he was not going to testify on her behalf; he would testify only if called by one of the defendants.
Steinberg further argued that her trial attorney was not an essential witness because the investigator was present during the conversation between her lawyer and the Winn-Dixie manager, and therefore the investigator could testify concerning the admission.
Finally, Steinberg argued that her trial lawyer’s anticipated testimony would not be adverse to her and she would waive any conflict should it arise.
The shopping center owner and property manager also deposed her trial attorney’s investigator. Anchell testified that he was present during trial lawyer’s conversation with the manager and that the manager said he removed the railing.
He took notes during the conversation. Ultimately, a later judge issued an order disqualifying her trial lawyer. The customer asked the appeals court to let her lawyer continue to represent her.
G & I and Equity One argued that the trial court properly entered the disqualification order because they intended to call Steinberg’s attorney as a critical witness in their own behalf to establish that their co-defendant, Winn-Dixie, had the primary responsibility for any negligence — not G & I or Equity One.
G & I and Equity One contend that the shopper’s trial lawyer’s testimony will be adverse to his own client insofar as she is claiming negligence on their part.
The appeals court let the trial lawyer continue to represent her.
A West Palm Beach lawyer and Fort Lauderdale attorney represented the customer. A Coral Gables lawyer represented the property owner and management company.
Want to Learn more about Winn Dixie Supermarket Accident Claims?
Check out these 3 must see articles:
- Winn Dixie Slip and Fall Injury Claims in Florida
- Claim for Herniated Disc from Slip & Fall on Melted Butter at North Florida Winn Dixie
- Slip and Fall on “Unnoticeable” Drops of Water vs. Winn Dixie Dismissed
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