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Texas Home Care Worker’s “Slip And Fall” Claim Fails

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APRIL 12, 1999 VOLUME 6, NUMBER 41

Mattie Meeks lived in her Corpus Christi, Texas apartment, but at eighty-six years of age she needed some help. She hired Maria Rosa to assist her. Ms. Rosa came in regularly to help bathe and dress Ms. Meeks, did some cleaning and occasionally cooked for Ms. Meeks as well.

In January of 1993, Ms. Rosa went to Ms. Meeks’ refrigerator to take out a container of cooked beans. In her testimony later, Ms. Rosa indicated that Ms. Meeks’ refrigerator was full of containers of food; in any event, the beans fell out of the refrigerator and onto the floor and Ms. Rosa’s shoes. When Ms. Rosa turned toward the broom closet to clean up the mess she slipped and fell, seriously injuring her shoulder.

Ms. Rosa sued Ms. Meeks on a “premises liability” claim. She alleged that Ms. Meeks knew (or should have known) that she was maintaining an unsafe condition, that it posed an unreasonable risk of harm to Ms. Rosa, and that Ms. Meeks did not exercise reasonable care to protect Ms. Rosa from injury. At trial, the jury found that Ms. Rosa was liable for thirty percent of the injury, and that Ms. Meeks was responsible for the remaining seventy percent.

Although the jury awarded a judgment to Ms. Rosa, the judge presiding over the trial reviewed the evidence and entered judgment for Ms. Meeks “non obstante verdicto“–an infrequently used ruling which permits the judge to overrule a jury. Ms. Rosa appealed to the Texas Court of Appeals.

Ms. Rosa’s appeal was filed in February, 1996, just over three years after she slipped in Ms. Meeks’ kitchen. The Court of Appeals considered the matter for almost a year and a half before deciding that Ms. Rosa should have prevailed, and the judges reinstated the jury verdict.

Now it was Ms. Meeks’ turn to appeal, this time to the Texas Supreme Court. Briefs were filed, and just short of two years later the justices of that court found in Ms. Meeks’ favor, declaring that Ms. Rosa should receive nothing.

The Supreme Court’s decision rested on two questions: whether Ms. Meeks’ refrigerator was merely full or “overflowing,” and whether there was any indication beans had been on the floor before the beans fell out of the refrigerator. If either had been the case, said the justices, it might be possible to argue that there was an unreasonable risk of harm to Ms. Rosa in Ms. Meeks’ kitchen.Meeks v. Rosa, March 11, 1999.

Since Ms. Meeks had not created or allowed a condition of unreasonable risk to exist, she was not liable for Ms. Rosa’s injuries. Nonetheless, the lawsuit lasted over six years from the day Ms. Rosa slipped and fell.

It is frequently difficult to persuade homebound seniors that they need help with the activities of daily living. A desire for privacy and self-reliance are probably more important reasons for refusing needed care than the prospect of litigation over a “slip and fall” lawsuit. The court record is silent as to whether Ms. Meeks had renters insurance to cover her potential liability. Ms. Meeks died three months before the court verdict in her favor.

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Robert B. Fleming


Robert Fleming is a Fellow of both the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been certified as a Specialist in Estate and Trust Law by the State Bar of Arizona‘s Board of Legal Specialization, and he is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Robert has a long history of involvement in local, state and national organizations. He is most proud of his instrumental involvement in the Special Needs Alliance, the premier national organization for lawyers dealing with special needs trusts and planning.

Robert has two adult children, two young grandchildren and a wife of over fifty years. He is devoted to all of them. He is also very fond of Rosalind Franklin (his office companion corgi), and his homebound cat Muninn. He just likes people, their pets and their stories.

Elizabeth N.R. Friman


Elizabeth Noble Rollings Friman is a principal and licensed fiduciary at Fleming & Curti, PLC. Elizabeth enjoys estate planning and helping families navigate trust and probate administrations. She is passionate about the fiduciary work that she performs as a trustee, personal representative, guardian, and conservator. Elizabeth works with CPAs, financial professionals, case managers, and medical providers to tailor solutions to complex family challenges. Elizabeth is often called upon to serve as a neutral party so that families can avoid protracted legal conflict. Elizabeth relies on the expertise of her team at Fleming & Curti, and as the Firm approaches its third decade, she is proud of the culture of care and consideration that the Firm embodies. Finding workable solutions to sensitive and complex family challenges is something that Elizabeth and the Fleming & Curti team do well.

Amy F. Matheson


Amy Farrell Matheson has worked as an attorney at Fleming & Curti since 2006. A member of the Southern Arizona Estate Planning Council, she is primarily responsible for estate planning and probate matters.

Amy graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in political science and English. She is an honors graduate of Suffolk University Law School and has been admitted to practice in Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Prior to joining Fleming & Curti, Amy worked for American Public Television in Boston, and with the international trade group at White & Case, LLP, in Washington, D.C.

Amy’s husband, Tom, is an astronomer at NOIRLab and the Head of Time Domain Services, whose main project is ANTARES. Sadly, this does not involve actual time travel. Amy’s twin daughters are high school students; Finn, her Irish Red and White Setter, remains a puppy at heart.

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Matthew M. Mansour


Matthew is a law clerk who recently earned his law degree from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. His undergraduate degree is in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Matthew has had a passion for advocacy in the Tucson community since his time as a law student representative in the Workers’ Rights Clinic. He also has worked in both the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. He enjoys playing basketball, caring for his cat, and listening to audiobooks narrated by the authors.