The Indiana Court of Appeals recently affirmed a jury’s $510,000 award in favor of an injured woman in a slip-and-fall case in Indianapolis, Indiana. In Mastellone v. Young Men’s Christian Ass’n of Greater Indianapolis, Jacqueline Mastellone (“Mastellone”) slipped and fell at an Indianapolis YMCA as she was walking back to a locker room after a swim class. The area where she fell did not have a slip-resistant mat. As part of a facility upgrade, the YMCA later replaced the flooring where Mastellone fell. Mastellone dislocated and fractured her left shoulder in the fall, which required a shoulder replacement, and she sued the YMCA for her injuries and damages.
The jury returned a verdict in favor of Mastellone calculating her total damages at $850,000, which was reduced to $510,000 based upon finding her 40% at fault and the YMCA 60% at fault. Prior to trial, the YMCA filed a motion in limine to exclude evidence as to the new floor installation. The trial court ordered it would allow evidence of the new floor installation, but it would not allow evidence that the flooring was changed. During trial, when Mastellone’s counsel asked a YMCA employee whether the flooring had been replaced, YMCA’s counsel objected, arguing the evidence was irrelevant and prejudicial. After the trial court indicated it would allow the question, YMCA’s counsel moved for a mistrial, which the trial court denied. In response to the question from Mastellone’s counsel, the YMCA employee testified the flooring had been replaced. YMCA’s counsel then elicited testimony that the flooring was not changed due to the fall but a facility upgrade. After the jury had reached a verdict but before reentering the courtroom, YMCA’s counsel then moved for a second mistrial after learning a piece of the flooring where Mastellone fell had not been sent back to the jury room. The trial court denied the second motion for mistrial because the jury had the opportunity to examine the flooring after it had been admitted as evidence.
After the jury verdict was read, the trial court stated it would enter judgement on the verdict, and then the trial court noted the entry of judgment on the docket, or chronological case summary (CCS). However, three days after the verdict, the trial court sua sponte (i.e., of its own accord) issued an Order Reconsidering Motion for Mistrial setting aside the jury’s verdict and the judgement. In its Order Reconsidering Motion for Mistrial, the trial court did not state which of the two motions for mistrial it had reconsidered, and it did not provide any reasoning. Mastellone appealed the Order Reconsidering Motion for Mistrial and the YMCA cross appealed arguing the trial court erred in denying its two mistrial motions and the verdict was excessive.