On June 17, 2018, plaintiff was walking in a carpeted hallway towards Auditorium 5 at the AMC theater in Poway, California when she passed an ADA bathroom which was leaking water.[i] Plaintiff slipped and fell forward, landing on her outstretched hands as she stepped off the carpet and onto the tile at the entrance of the auditorium. She fractured her wrist and had her hand casted several times. She never underwent surgery but eventually developed complex regional pain syndrome and underwent a trial and permanent spinal cord stimulator implant surgery.
Responsibility: Accept Responsibility for Your Actions
“When you’re a corporation [and] you cause harm to somebody, [and] you know you have caused harm to somebody, accept responsibility for it.”[ii] Those were the words of plaintiff’s counsel, Pejman Ben-Cohen, as he began his closing argument in the matter of Hampton v. AMC Theaters, wherein a San Diego jury awarded plaintiff $9.1 million in the courtroom of Judge Joel Wohlfeil. Throughout his closing argument, plaintiff’s counsel reviewed the jury instructions and cited specific instances wherein former employees of AMC, starting with the general manager of the theater, acknowledged the fact there had been a problem with the plumbing in the bathroom, and further, acknowledged they had seen liquid on the floor near the subject restroom before the incident. While defendants attempted to describe how they had taken the standard precautions, jurors were not persuaded because they did not properly accept responsibility.
Reasonableness: It Is Not Reasonable to Avoid Accepting Responsibility
Instead of accepting responsibility for what seems like an obvious dangerous condition – a wet floor – defense counsel attempted to deflate plaintiff’s argument by poking holes around the edges of her case. While it was undisputed plaintiff slipped and fell inside the theater, defense counsel focused on the claim the incident may have occurred at a different spot along the pathway between the restroom and closer to the entrance to the auditorium.
Plaintiff’s counsel knocked down this argument by citing former AMC employees, who confirmed the company knew about the leak in the bathroom and did nothing to inspect or repair it on the on the day of the incident. Therefore, while defense counsel implored the jury to act reasonably, plaintiff’s counsel argued effectively defendant AMC had failed to do so.
It Is Common Sense to Accept Responsibility for Your Actions
The jury was persuaded by plaintiff’s counsel, who presented a clear and coherent argument based on testimony given by AMC employees that the incident occurred because defendant AMC refused to take responsibility for the condition of the floor at the time of the incident. If defense counsel had simply accepted responsibility for the fact the incident occurred, he could have pivoted his argument – and the jury’s focus – away from attacking plaintiff’s alleged injuries and medical treatment.
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[i] Hampton v. American Multi-Cinema, San Diego Cty. Court, (Aug. 29, 2022), Case No. 37-2020-00012463-CU-PO-CTL.
[ii] Closing Arguments, Hampton v. American Multi-Cinema, San Diego Cty. Court, (Aug. 29, 2022), Case No. 37-2020-00012463-CU-PO-CTL