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Uneven Sidewalk Results in $890K Injury JudgmentLock Icon

2 min read

A 71-year-old Maumelle man was recently awarded more than $800,000 for injuries he suffered from tripping on an uneven sidewalk at the veterans hospital in North Little Rock.

Way back in 2015, Pastor Rodney Shanner went to a building at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System Fort Roots Hospital in North Little Rock.

Shanner was there to visit a parishioner of his church.

When Shanner left the building, he caught his foot on an uneven joint in the sidewalk and tripped, causing him to hit the concrete pavement with his face and right shoulder, according to Judge Billy Roy Wilson’s filing on May 3 in U.S. District Court in Little Rock. Shanner was taken to another hospital and treated for a broken nose and other injuries. He had surgery on his shoulder that basically required replacing his shoulder joint.

His recovery included 51 physical therapy sessions and follow-up appointments. “Mr. Shanner continues to experience pain,” Wilson wrote. Shanner’s medical bills reached about $90,000.

Shanner and his wife, Rita Shanner, filed their claim against the federal government in 2017.

An investigation into the site where Shanner tripped revealed a ¾-inch change in the walkway level, which was considered a “severe tripping hazard,” according to the testimony of an engineer who inspected the area.

The engineer said the hazard could have been easily alleviated by beveling the uneven slabs with a handheld grinder, according to Wilson’s decision.

“While the VA acknowledges these uneven sidewalk slabs constitute a severe tripping hazard, it has taken no steps to correct them,” Wilson wrote. (A spokesman for the VA didn’t return a call for comment.)

The VA’s safety and occupational health manager testified that he never noticed the uneven sidewalk slabs. The manager also said that the VA is required to inspect the grounds annually for potential safety hazards. “Reasonable inspection of the grounds should have and would have revealed the hazard presented by the uneven slabs in the walkway where Mr. Shanner tripped and fell had the VA undertaken such inspections and corrected the hazard,” Wilson said.

He awarded economic damages of $685,000 and $175,000 for pain and suffering. Wilson found that the federal government was 95% at fault and Shanner was 5%, resulting in a $817,000 judgment for Shanner. Rita Shanner was awarded $71,250 for loss of consortium damages.

The Shanners were represented by attorneys Robert M. Cearley Jr. of Little Rock and Paul J. James of James & Carter of Little Rock.

Rodney Shanner “really appreciates the opportunity to have a full and fair trial,” James told Whispers. “This has been a long process.” The federal government was represented by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District.

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