CARSON CITY – The state Supreme Court threw out a $3.526 million judgment Thursday against a Las Vegas restaurant on the grounds that a judge should not have excluded testimony that a patron who fell on the premises had been drinking and suffered from prior back pain.
Judges reversed a Clark County District Court jury decision that Carmine’s Little Italy should pay patron Debbie Giglio damages and attorney fees for the back injuries and pain she suffered in a fall while on her way to a restroom. The jury awarded the money in 2009 on the grounds the restaurant was 51 percent at fault and Giglio 49 percent at fault in the fall.
Giglio’s boyfriend and now husband, Raymond Schrefel, had said she slipped on an oily substance on a floor in the restaurant. Restaurant managers said the floor was clear.
But in the decision, justices said Judge Timothy Williams was wrong by not allowing jurors to hear that Giglio had been drinking and that she had been suffering from back pain for 11 years before her fall. Doctors had been prescribing medication for that pain during the seven years before the fall.
Giglio had contended the fall led to the removal of a disc in her neck and two discs from her lower back. Her pain was not relieved by surgery, and she contended she would need a spinal stimulator and injections for future pain management.
According to the court, Giglio had Schrefel had been in the restaurant for 45 minutes before the fall and had consumed four beers and two glasses of wine. Schrefel had indicated Giglio drank two beers.
Justices also ruled that the “mode of operation” liability approach, which makes restaurants more liable for patrons’ injuries in self-service restaurants, does not apply in Carmine’s Little Italy, a sit-down restaurant.
Giglio can seek a new trial, but one based on the findings made in the Supreme Court decision.
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