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St. Mary’s Co. jury awards $230K in banana peel slip and fall

A St. Mary’s County jury has awarded Lexington Park woman nearly $230,000 after she slipped on a rotten banana peel and fell in a Sheetz parking lot.

The damages awarded to Celeste Newland on Thursday include $200,000 in noneconomic damages and nearly $30,000 in past medical expenses.

Newland fell as she was leaving the store in December 2013, breaking her kneecap. In her lawsuit, filed in St. Mary’s County Circuit Court in November 2016, Newland described the banana peel as “black in color, indicating that it had been present for a sufficient period of time that it would have been noticed by the property owner or business operator, had they been exercising due care.”

The jury, following two hours of deliberations, found Newland was not contributorily negligent, according to her lawyer, a defense that deprives the plaintiff of the right to any recovery in Maryland.

Newland suffered “serious, painful and permanent bodily injuries” that precluded her from participating in regular activities and hindered her capacity to earn income, the lawsuit states. She maintained throughout the two-day trial she did not see the banana peel before she stepped on it, contrary to defense arguments, said Richard J. Steinmetz Jr., Newland’s attorney.

Steinmetz said Newland had surgery and is walking again. She is also able to engage is most day-to-day activities, said the attorney from PC in Lexington Park.

“She was pleased with the jury verdict,” said Steinmetz, of Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz PC in Lexington Park.

Stephen J. Marshall, a lawyer for Sheetz and franchise owner Michael Hewitt LLC, did not return a call for comment Monday. Marshall is with Franklin & Prokopik PC in Baltimore.

The defendants offered as much as $110,000 to settle the case, according to Steinmetz.

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Celeste Newland vs. Michael Hewitt LLC, et al.

Celeste Newland vs. Michael Hewitt LLC, et al.

Court: St. Mary’s County Circuit

Case No.: 18-C-16-001609

Judge: Karen H. Abrams

Proceeding: Jury trial

Outcome: Verdict for plaintiff for $229,651.60 ($200,000 in noneconomic damages, and $29,651.60 for in past medical expenses)


Incident: Dec. 2, 2013

Suit filed: Nov. 30, 2016

Verdict: April 12, 2018

Plaintiff’s Attorney: Richard J. Steinmetz Jr. of Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz PC in Lexington Park

Defendants’ Attorney: Stephen J. Marshall of Franklin & Prokopik PC in Baltimore

Count: Negligence

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