No new trial for woman who tripped at Lake Charles casino, appeals court rules

By David Yates | Feb 2, 2011

L'auberge Du Lac Hotel and Casino, Lake Charles, La.

The Ninth Court of Appeals in Beaumont recently affirmed a lower court's ruling not to give a local woman a new trial, decreasing her odds to score big against a Louisiana casino.

As the Southeast Texas Record previously reported, Jefferie Ann Cartwright sued Pinnacle Entertainment in September 2007 after becoming injured from a fall at L'auberge Du Lac Hotel and Casino in Lake Charles, La.

Cartwright claims she tripped over wrinkled carpet on Dec. 31, 2006, court records show. She alleges she was lured to the Louisiana casino by Pinnacle Entertainment, whose advertising campaign was aimed at Southeast Texans.

According to the complaint, the carpet outside L'auberge Du Lac was "unreasonably wrinkled and buckled, which caused her to fall forward, head first onto the cement valet driveway."

However, in late 2009 an Orange County jury did not agree with Cartwright's allegations and jurors found no negligence on Pinnacle's part and did not award her any damages.

Cartwright responded by filing a motion for new trial, which Orange County District Judge Dennis Powell, 163rd District Court, denied – forcing her to file an appeal to the Beaumont justices last January.

On appeal, Cartwright contended that the trial court improperly denied her motion for new trial because the evidence is legally insufficient to support the jury's verdict.

Nonetheless, in a Jan. 20 opinion, Ninth Court justices affirmed the lower court's decision to honor the jury verdict and enter a take-nothing judgment against Cartwright, court records show.

"As the sole judge of the weight and credibility of the evidence, the jury was entitled to resolve any conflicts in the evidence and choose whom to believe," states the court's opinion, authored by Chief Justice Steve McKeithen.

"In doing so, the jury could reasonably conclude that neither the manner by which the mats were displayed nor the specific wrinkle in the mat that allegedly caused Cartwright's fall constituted an unreasonably dangerous condition of which Pinnacle was aware.

"The evidence is not so weak, nor so against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence, as to render the verdict clearly wrong and unjust. Accordingly, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying Cartwright's motion for new trial. We overrule Cartwright's sole issue and affirm the trial court's judgment."

Claiming she injured her skull, neck, back, knee, shoulder and eyes in the fall, Cartwright is seeking damages for past and future medical expenses, physical pain and mental anguish, plus compensatory, actual and consequential damages.

Attorney Michael Pierce of the Arnold Itkin law firm in Houston represents Cartwright.

Attorneys Kent M. Adams, Gerald Riedmueller and John Lynd of the Houston law firm Adams & Heald represent Pinnacle.

Trial case No. B070455-c
Appeals case No. 09-10-00035-CV

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