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SCOTT v. UNITED STATES

December 6, 1957

Grace SCOTT and George Scott, Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES of America, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BRENNAN

This is an action brought under the provisions of the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C.A. §§ 1346, 2671 et seq., by Grace Scott to recover for personal injuries sustained, and by her husband, George Scott, to recover for medical expenses and loss of his wife's services by reason of an accident which occurred on January 6, 1954 at Syracuse, N.Y.

The pertinent facts are sufficiently disclosed in the findings of fact set out below.

1. That at all the times hereinafter mentioned, the defendant maintained and controlled as lessor the premises known as the Chimes Building situated at a corner of South Salina Street and West Onondaga Street in the City of Syracuse.

 2. That at all times hereinafter mentioned, the premises known as the Chimes Building was maintained and operated as an office building, occupied by federal agencies and other individual lessee tenants.

 3. That at all the times hereinafter mentioned, there were two separate entrances from the public highway to said building, available to and used by the occupants of said building, their employees and those members of the public seeking to transact business therein.

 4. That the entrance from West Onondaga Street provided a passageway through doors at the sidewalk level into an areaway or lobby through which persons passed through three doors to an inner lobby known as the elevator lobby.

 5. That the area between the sidewalk and the elevator lobby was known as the lobby or vestibule and consisted of an open area approximately eleven feet ten inches wide, fronting on the sidewalk and extending approximately twenty-three feet in depth to the doors which lead to the elevator lobby. (Said area with be referred to herein as the vestibule, to distinguish same from the inner or elevator lobby).

 6. That the floor of said vestibule (except for eight inches adjacent to the side wall which was of tile or marble construction) was covered with a material known as terrazzo which was smooth on the surface and became slippery when wet or covered with moisture. The floor surface sloped from the rear to the front a total of approximately five and three-quarter inches or about one-quarter inch per foot. On either side of the lobby, at the front and rear thereof, were pillars which projected into the areaway approximately twenty inches.

 7. On January 6, 1954, it had snowed intermittently during the day with some rain interspersed. On that date and prior thereto interwoven link mats were placed upon the floor of said lobby, extending from the sidewalk entrance doors the length of the vestibule to the three doors which lead to the elevator lobby. Said mats covered an area of eight feet six inches, leaving approximately twenty inches on either side of the lobby exposed. The mats, as they were laid, covered the center area of the lobby from pillar to pillar.

 8. On January 6, 1954 at about 3 o'clock p.m., plaintiff, Grace Scott, entered the Chimes Building from the West Onondaga Street entrance for the purpose of transacting business with one of the occupants of the Chimes Building.

 9. At the time, she was wearing galoshes and shoes with a medium height heel and was carrying a pocketbook and envelope or paper folder.

 10. After her entry into the vestibule, she proceeded to walk towards the rear, with the intention of passing through the doors leading to the inner or elevator lobby. The course taken by her was over and upon the mats, heretofore described, and near the righthand edge thereof as plaintiff proceeded. When she had reached a point about halfway between the entrance doors and the doors leading to the inner lobby and about opposite a grating or heating facility, located in or near the wall of the vestibule to plaintiff's right, the doors of the inner lobby opened. Some seven or eight people passed therefrom into the vestibule and proceeded to walk towards the plaintiff. At the above point, the plaintiff stepped from the mat onto the exposed portion of the terrazzo floor, whereupon her 'feet went out from under' her. She fell to her knees and substantially came to a sitting position with her feet doubled under her.

 11. That as the result of the accident, above described, the said plaintiff sustained personal injuries and her husband, plaintiff George Scott, became liable for medical expenses on account of his wife's said injuries.

 12. That after the occurrence or accident, above described, the clothes of plaintiff, Grace ...


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