Physical Rehabilitation Damage Leads to Difficult Ruling, Appeal of Facts

Scott Ramocitti lost three fingers on his left hand in a work-related accident that occurred while he was using a saw blade in May of 2008. During his treatment Mr. Ramocitti was referred by his work insurance company to the defendant in this case, Helping Hand Physical, for physical therapy in order to learn how to adjust to his new situation. His physical therapy regiment included almost daily exercises with a Thera-Band exercise band to strengthen his hand and help Mr. Ramociotti learn to adjust to living with two fingers on his left hand.

A Thera-Band is a yellow latex band, used to help increase strength by providing resistance to muscles during rehabilitation. He was given his band by Chere Johnson, a Helping Hand physical therapist and instructed to do the exercises at home. After a month of using the Thera-Band, it broke during one of his exercises and re-injured Mr. Ramocitti’s left index finger.

This incident led to Mr. Ramocitti filing suit against Helping Hands claiming negligence for failure to properly instruct and warn him on how to use the Thera-Band. Helping Hands filed a motion for summary judgment, which was granted by the trial court judge in the initial proceeding. Upon receiving this judgment Mr. Ramocitti appealed.

The issue on appeal was whether or not Helping Hands breached its duty to property instruct and warn Mr. Ramociotti about the potential dangers of the Thera-Band. In support of Helpings Hands motion for summary judgment, Ms. Johnson testified in her deposition that she had “provided specific instructions and warning to Mr. Ramociotti about inspecting the band for any nicks, tears or thin places prior to each use”. Had Ms. Johnson properly instructed Mr. Ramociotti on how to use and inspect his Thera-Band, she would have dispatched her legal duty of care and would not be liable for negligence.

However, Mr. Ramociotti testified in an affidavit that he was not given written instruction manuals of any kind on how to properly use the Thera-Band, nor had he received any oral instructions from Ms. Johnson on the importance of closely inspecting his Thera-Band before each usage. Due to the conflicting testimonies of Ms. Johnson and Mr. Ramociotti, a genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether Ms. Johnson properly instructed Mr. Ramocitti, thus the Court of Appeals reversed Summary Judgment in favor of Helping Hands and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings.

The importance of this decision lies in the manner in which a set of facts are assessed by a court, as well as the rights people have when they are injured. Not being provided proper instruction is one set of circumstances but, perhaps more importantly, the way in which the courts review a case is also significant. By having an attorney able to argue your case and handle the appeal process properly is crucial for justice when an injury has taken place.

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