$4 Million Verdict for Santa Rosa County Man Who Suffered Traumatic Brain Injury After Falling at Restaurant

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On September 15, 2022, a jury awarded $4 million to John Ratzlaff, a former Santa Rosa County employee, who sustained a TBI (traumatic brain injury) after slipping on water from a cracked tile at Church’s Chicken. Phil Hall of Phil Hall, P.A. and Chris Crawford of Crawford Law represented Mr. Ratzlaff at trial.

The jury was asked to determine the amount of loss, injury, or damage Mr. Ratzlaff has sustained and will sustain in the future. The Defendant’s MSK Enterprises admitted liability in its failure to maintain its premises.

On November 19, 2014, Mr. Ratzlaff went to lunch with his co-workers. After he placed his order and walked away from the counter to find a seat, Mr. Ratzlaff slipped on water that had collected below a broken tile. Mr. Ratzlaff fell, hitting the base of skull against the dividing wall. According to witnesses, Mr. Ratzlaff’s head then bounced off the tile floor. When he regained consciousness, Mr. Ratzlaff returned to work but immediately left work to be examined at Urgent Care. He was then referred to Sacred Heart Hospital where it was determined he had suffered a concussion.

In the weeks following the injury, Mr. Ratzlaff experienced headaches, chronic migraines, occipital neuralgia, vision impairment, and low back pain. After Mr. Ratzlaff was cleared to return to work as an equipment operator for Santa Rosa County, Mr. Ratzlaff continued to experience the effects of the TBI, including memory loss, tangential speech patterns, loss of concentration, and other cognitive deficits. As a result of these symptoms, Mr. Ratzlaff was demoted from his position as an equipment operator. His last duties as a Santa Rosa County employee included cleaning toilets and flagging traffic.

The injury also affected Mr. Ratzlaff’s social life. His friends and co-workers reported that Mr. Ratzlaff’s personality had changed, that he had become irritable and would repeat himself, causing friends and co-workers to avoid him.

Following the fall, Mr. Ratzlaff sought treatment from a neurologist who diagnosed him as having post-concussive syndrome that has resulted in migraines and memory loss. Mr. Ratzlaff continues to see a neurologist for treatment.

The Defendant, MSK Enterprises, admitted Mr. Ratzlaff suffered a mild trauma brain injury but disputed the value of the case, stating that Mr. Ratzlaff should receive no more than $250,000 in damages. As Plaintiff’s Counsel, Mr. Hall and Mr. Crawford argued that a fair verdict would be between $4,000,000.00 and $6,000,000.00 in damages for past and future pain and suffering. The jury returned a $4 million verdict in favor of the Plaintiff.

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