BEAUMONT – A Jefferson County judge will soon decide whether to cut a $143,400 jury verdict in half in a suit brought by a woman claiming an Applebee’s host incidentally stepped on her foot, causing her to loose her balance and fall.
Seeking up to $1 million in damages, Carolyn Rhymes filed suit against El Chico Restaurants of Arkansas (Applebee’s) on March 27, 2014 in Jefferson County District Court.
The trial began April 10 and lasted four days with jurors finding both parties equally at fault, assigning 50 percent responsibility to Rhymes and El Chico Restaurants.
Court records show Applebee’s turned down a $250,000 settlement offer before the trial.
At trial, Rhymes demanded jurors award her more than $600,000 in damages.
On May 2, Applebee’s filed a motion for entry of final judgment, arguing that since the jury found it only 50 percent at fault, the verdict should be halved to $71,700.
Also, as the prevailing party in an offer of settlement situation, Applebee’s says it’s entitled to recover attorney’s fees in the amount of $27,387.47.
“Therefore, the amount remaining to be paid on the verdict by defendant is $44,312.53, and said amount should be placed into the registry of the court,” the motion states.
A hearing on the matter was held May 8. Judge Kent Walston, 58th District Court, is currently taking the motion under advisement.
In her suit, Rhymes, who was 65 years old at the time, says the “accident occurred” on May 10, 2014, at Applebee’s on Dowlen Road in Beaumont.
As Rhymes walked behind the host assigned to seat her, the host took a step backwards and stepped on her foot, “causing her to lose her balance and fall forcefully to the ground.”
Rhymes landed on her butt, hitting her arm and leg on the way down. As a result of the fall, Rhymes had to undergo medical treatment, the suit alleges.
Since the restaurant chain employed the host, the defendant is liable for him “failing to watch where he was walking,” the suit alleges.
In a second amended answer, El Chico Restaurants asserted the occurrence was caused by Rhymes’ negligence and that she failed to mitigate her medical expenses by refusing to use her medical insurance.
Jurors awarded Rhymes $108,000 in past medical expenses, $30,000 for her past mental anguish and $5,400 for her past loss of earning capacity, according to the charge of the court.
No damages were awarded for Rhymes’ future mental anguish or past impairment.
Beaumont attorney Malachi Daws represents her.
Houston attorney Jeffrey Diamond represents El Chico.
Case No. A196-887