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Contractor Found Liable For Woman’s Drive-Thru Lane Fall

Stephanie Zielinski, of the Law Weekly

Feb. 19, 2009

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After about three hours of deliberation Feb. 19, a jury found Dan Robinson and Dan’s Car Care Center liable for $6.6 million after a failure to clear parking lot pathways resulted in a plaintiff’s slip and fall accident.

Catherine Bannon, 38, and her husband, Charles, were passing through the drive-thru at a Clifton Heights, Pa., fast food restaurant March 18, 2007, when their car became stuck in ice.

According to the plaintiff’s settlement memorandum, “Catherine Bannon exited the car to walk around to the driver’s side so she could take the wheel while her husband pushed the car.”

In the process, Catherine Bannon slipped and fell, “sustaining serious injury.”

KFC U.S. Properties Inc. and improperly named defendants YUM! Brands Inc., Taco Bell and KFC admitted liability in this action, according to the defendant’s settlement memorandum.

However the memorandum states in their defense, Dan’s Car Care Center, owned by defendant Dan Robinson, was responsible for plowing the parking lot of the KFC Restaurant, including the drive-thru lane. Furthermore, the defendants argued Catherine Bannon had pre-existing back injuries, according to their memo. The defense’s settlement memo notes Catherine Bannon waited six months before beginning treatment for her injuries after being seen in the ER on the day of the slip and fall.

Prior to jury selection, a confidential settlement was reached between the plaintiff and defendant KFC U.S. Properties said plaintiffs’ attorney Gerald Baldino. This settlement, however, did not include defendants Dan Robinson and Dan’s Car Care Center.

“Despite being served with the complaint, a ten-day notice, default judgment and a letter from the Court one week prior to trial instructing them to appear for jury selection, no representative appeared at trial,” Baldino said in a statement.

Among the injuries Catherine Bannon sustained as a result of the incident, “the primary injury claimed at the time of trial was to plaintiff’s neck,” Baldino said. “She sustained two protruding discs with torn annulus at two levels.”

In their settlement memorandum, the defense argued that Catherine Bannon’s pain stemmed from a prior injury.

A Sept. 6, 2007, MRI of plaintiff’s lumbar spine “revealed multi-level degenerative disc disease” according to the defendants’ memo in defense to plaintiffs’ request for damages.

MRI results sent by John F. Hiehle to Dr. Richard Levenberg on Sept. 6, 2005, describe Catherine Bannon’s clinical history of “lower back pain with numbness and tingling in the left leg.” The report commented that there was minimal disc bulge at T11-12 and small disc protrusion at L4-5 and L5-S1.

The defense memo also stated that the plaintiff claimed “post concussion syndrome as a result of the KFC fall.” However, “at the ER on the day of the incident,” the defense noted, “Bannon denied having suffered any head trauma.”

Baldino’s memo argued “pre-existing injury” claims by the defendant saying, “While [Plaintiff] suffered exacerbation of pre-existing low back condition (herniated discs), that low back injury was not the focus of plaintiff’s claim.”

Instead the memo listed “neck injuries” as the main factor contributing to Bannon’s inability to return to work full time as a medical transcriptionist for Medquist Transcription in New Jersey.

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