Columbia County faces negligence lawsuit
UPDATE: A jury found Columbia County was negligent in failing to post a warning of a slippery floor at the Columbia County Courthouse, but shouldn't be held at fault for a slip and fall that left a woman with injuries.
Jury selection began Wednesday, Feb. 21, for a civil trial alleging negligence on behalf of Columbia County.
Marilyn Skipworth filed suit against the county in 2016 after she said she slipped on a wet floor at the Columbia County Courthouse while attending a court hearing on Nov. 3, 2014, causing her to fall and fracture her ankle, while sustaining other injuries. Skipworth claims she suffered injuries, some permanent, that required extensive medical treatment. She is seeking $250,000 plus another $35,000 in compensation for medical bills.
An attorney for the county claims Skipworth's fall
was caused by her own negligence.
Skipworth claims the county failed to keep the floor near the entrance to the courthouse safe and failed to notify the public of the wet floor.
The civil suit claims Skipworth's fall caused injury to her ankles, legs, back and hips, as well as other parts of her body.
Court records show the county has no video footage or written report on record of Skipworth's fall. Skipworth is being represented by Richard Myers of Portland-based law firm Bennett, Hartman, Morris & Kaplan LLP.
In a response to the legal complaint, Louis Kurtz, an attorney representing the county, maintained Skipworth was "careless and negligent" during her trip to the courthouse. Specifically, the county's response states the plaintiff "failed to wipe the bottoms of her shoes on the mats inside the doors to lobby of the courthouse annex," and "failed to keep a proper lookout for rainwater on the floor" on a rainy day.
Kurtz's response letter also indicates Skipworth was unaware of her surroundings, should have been walking slower through the building given the rainy weather, and lost her balance for no good reason.
Legal filings show the plaintiff intends to rely on family members and a courthouse volunteer who was present the day of her fall as witnesses in the case.
Wednesday marked the first day of the civil trial. Jurors filled seats in Columbia Circuit Judge Cathleen Callahan's courtroom and awaited a jury selection process.
The case hit home Wednesday as snowfall in St. Helens and throughout the county left roads and walkways wet and slick. As jurors filed into the courthouse, they were met with two mats near the door and a caution sign warning of a wet floor.
Three days of trial have been set for the case, which was expected to wrap up Friday.