Judge: trucker has nobody but self to blame in shower slip and fall

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line associate editor | 5/18/2016

A federal judge in Virginia dismissed a trucker’s $300,000 negligence lawsuit against a Speedway travel plaza after the driver was injured by a slip and fall in the shower.

In his ruling, Judge Norman K. Moon agreed with defendant Speedway LLC’s contention that the driver, Richard Zowaski, was contributorily negligent for failing to notice “the open and obvious” hazard posed by the puddles of water on the tile floor. The judge issued a summary judgment on behalf of the defendant on May 10.

“A plaintiff cannot be ‘oblivious’ to his surroundings, which is what the undisputed facts here show as to Plaintiff’s shower exit, given that he: used no bathmat despite the ‘slippery’ surface; ‘assumed’ water escaped while he showered; and could have seen it while stepping out had he been looking,” the judge wrote. “Plaintiff’s assertion that he had ‘no reasonable ... course of action’ but to exit the shower once inside is again true, but it is a red herring because what matters is how he stepped out of the shower.”

According to an affidavit filed by Zowaski’s lawyers, the fall occurred October 2, 2013 at what was then a Speedway Travel Plaza at 1014 Mount Olive Road in Toms Brook, Va. The location has since been acquired by Pilot.

Zowaski’s complaint alleged that a short shower curtain was to blame for allowing water to pool on the raised step entrance of the shower and on the floor beyond, which he blamed for the slip. According to his account, Zowaski’s left foot slipped as he exited the shower, causing him to fall to his knees and then flip over on his back. When he did so, he claims that his right calf struck the raised strip of the shower stall with enough force to break the skin, which led to an infection he later had to treat at a hospital.

According to court records, Zowaski admitted in testimony that the truck stop did provide him with a paper bath mat, but that he did not use it because he felt it was “ineffective.” It also states that he usually would use “a dirty shirt” as a bath mat outside the shower, but that he admitted he didn’t put one down at that particular shower because he did not want it to get soaked with water.

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