Deborah Bates-Bridgmon et al.
Heong's Market, Inc. d/b/a Roch's Market et al.
County Superior Court KC 12-23, Associate Justice Bennett R.
Plaintiffs: Ronald J. Resmini, Esq. Adam J. Resmini, Esq.
Defendants: Dennis J. Roberts, II, Esquire
Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and
Gilbert V. Indeglia, Associate Justice
plaintiffs, Deborah Bates-Bridgmon and her husband, Jackie
Bridgmon (Deborah, Jackie, or plaintiffs), appeal following a
Superior Court judgment in favor of the defendant,
Heong's Market, Inc., d/b/a Roch's Market (Roch's
Market or defendant).
appeal arises from Deborah's fall at Roch's Market in
West Warwick. The plaintiffs subsequently brought suit
against defendant for the injuries Deborah sustained from her
fall. After a trial in the Kent County Superior Court, a jury
rendered a verdict for defendant. Following the unfavorable
verdict, plaintiffs moved for a new trial and additur,
pursuant to Rule 59 of the Superior Court Rules of Civil
Procedure. After hearing the parties, the trial justice
denied the motion, concluding that he would not have reached
a different result from that reached by the jury.
April 13, 2015, plaintiffs appealed and argued that the trial
justice erred by denying their motion for a new trial and not
instructing the jury on the "mode of operation"
theory. Alternatively, plaintiffs ask this Court to adopt
that theory for "the adjudication of premises liability
claims brought by business invitees seeking compensation for
injuries arising out of a business owner's self-service
mode of operation." For the reasons set forth, we affirm
the judgment of the Superior Court.
event underlying this appeal is Deborah's fall that
occurred on March 23, 2009, at Roch's Market. On January
9, 2012, plaintiffs filed a complaint alleging that defendant
negligently maintained the market's premises; that
defendant breached a contractual duty owed to Deborah, a
business invitee, by failing to maintain the property in a
reasonable and safe manner; and that Jackie suffered a loss
of consortium. On October 6, 2014, plaintiffs moved to amend
their complaint so as to add an additional count based on the
theory of mode of operation. This motion was granted on November 3,
2014. With respect to this theory, plaintiffs alleged that
"by its mode of operation, [defendant] is responsible
for such negligence and foreseen conditions on its
premises." A trial was held from February 24 through
February 26, 2015.
testified first. She stated that, on March 23, 2009, between
2:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., she entered Roch's Market, a
grocery store she frequented, to purchase meat. After leaving
the meat department, Deborah turned a corner, took a few
steps, and slipped on what she later discovered was
"cucumber and oil and debris" from the nearby salad
bar. When asked whether she saw a warning sign near the salad
bar, Deborah responded, "No." She testified that
she yelled for help to an employee "a few feet"
away from her, but was not acknowledged because that person
was assisting another customer. When asked whether there were
any other employees in the area, Deborah replied, "No,
other than people behind, like, the meat counter and the deli
counter." Deborah said that she then crawled to the
prepared foods department and used a rail to lift herself up.
She eventually got the aforementioned employee's
attention and told her that she fell and needed help. Deborah
said that the employee offered assistance and wiped the
floor. She testified that the manager of the meat department
came over and spoke with her. Deborah said that he told her
that there was no one available, at that time, to complete an
said that she experienced pain "[i]mmediately after the
fall" because she landed in a contorted position. She
testified that she had discomfort in her lower back, right
upper back, right arm, right side, knee, ankle, and foot. The
next morning, after a poor night's sleep, Deborah went to
the emergency room. There, x-rays were taken that revealed no
fractures. Deborah testified that she was told she had
soft-tissue injuries. MRIs taken later, however, revealed
that she had bulging and degenerative disks and multiple
tears in her meniscus.
Deborah noted that she was collecting disability benefits
from the state for fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, and
circulatory issues. She distinguished the pain from her fall
from the fibromyalgia pain, stating, "It's a
constant pain or like an ache or a throb. It's different
from fibromyalgia, that sharp twitchy electrical current
pain." She testified that she had experienced the pain
from her fall daily.
husband, Jackie, testified next. He described his wife's
health before her fall as "good" and stated that
they were able to do everything that they wanted to do.
Jackie testified that, prior to Deborah's fall, he
required her help because of his own health issues.
Discussing the effect that Deborah's injuries had on
their life, Jackie said, "[O]ur life's just done. We
do nothing." He testified that, after his wife's
fall, he called Roch's Market and spoke with the
meat-department manager. He recounted the incident and told
the manager that Deborah was taken to the emergency room.
Jackie testified that he wanted to fill out an incident
report; however, the manager whom he spoke with told him to
call an attorney.
Ting Chan, the owner of Roch's Market,
testified. She said that she purchased
the market in January 2008. Chan testified that she was not
at the store on the day of Deborah's fall, however, the
"general manager, " Carl R. Masiello, told her that
a customer fell. She noted that, at that time, they did not
have the customer's name or any other information about
her. She said that Deborah had not filed an incident report.
She testified that Masiello, whom she described as a reliable
and credible employee, never told her whether the customer
was injured and also did not mention Jackie's phone call.
When asked about Jackie's testimony that a Roch's
Market manager told him to call an attorney, Chan testified
that "I don't think any of our employee[s] would say
things like that. Any kind of call like this, it will be
directed to the manager or to me * * * ." Chan described
Roch's Market's policy for accidents involving
customers. She said that a manager would fill out an injury
report based on the customer's responses, so that
Roch's Market would have the customer's name, contact
information, and a description of what happened.
testified that there was no salad bar in Roch's Market
when she purchased the store. It was installed in mid- to
late 2008 and was continuously used in that capacity until
the end of 2010 or the beginning of 2011. Chan said that,
although the structure still remained, self-serve salad items
were no longer available. Instead, it contained wrapped
sandwiches. Chan testified that Roch's Market stopped
selling salad at the salad bar because it was not
sufficiently profitable. When asked whether Deborah's
injury influenced this decision, Chan replied, "It just
didn't generate enough business for us." Chan was
also asked if any changes had been made to the area near the
salad bar after Deborah's ...