January 7, 2005 | Daily Hampshire Gazette
By Kimberly Ashton, Staff Writer
Northampton— Three summers ago, Roger Storozuk walked out of the Cumberland Farms store in the center of South Deerfield and into the path of a 2½-ton truck that slammed into him and through the storefront, seriously injuring the 52-year-old.
The $800,000 lawsuit Storozuk filed against the convenience store went to trial Monday in Hampshire Superior Court.
Storozuk’s lawyer, Paul Weinberg of Northampton, told jurors that the store owners could have prevented the accident had they installed barriers – such as concrete poles – in front of the parking spaces that face the store. Further, he claimed, the store owners know of the dangers in its lot based on similar accidents at other Cumberland Farms stores.
But the lawyer for Cumberland farms, Richard Campbell of Boston, said the accident was purely the driver’s fault.
Campbell said that in the store’s 25 years on the corner of South Main and Sugarloaf streets, the July 2001 incident was the first motor vehicle accident to result in personal injury.
Besides, Campbell said, even if there had been a barrier it would have “snapped like a stick” after being hit at the speed the 5,000-pound vehicle was traveling. Also, had there been a barrier, it’s possible that Storozuk could have been crushed between it and the truck, Campbell said. Or, if Storozuk hadn’t gone back to the store to make a second purchase, he wouldn’t have been hit at all, the lawyer said.
Storozuk, of South Deerfield, had bought gasoline, paid for it and then went back into the store to buy something else. Only seconds after leaving, Michelle Martin, then 35, of Whately, drove over the 1¾-inch curb, hitting Storozuk and the storefront, which had a 3-foot-high brick wall topped by a plate glass window.
Storozuk suffered head, back and leg injuries. His bleeding was stopped by another customer who used employee aprons to make a tourniquet. Storozuk was taken by LifeFlight to Baystate Medical Center, where he initially was listed in critical condition.
Storozuk’s lawyer, Weinberg, said he has since incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills and has spent thousands modifying his home to accommodate a wheelchair.
Storozuk was not working at the time of the accident, having been on disability since 1982 from post-traumatic stress disorder that Weinberg said had followed his two tours in Vietnam as a combat medic.
His wife, Marion Storozuk, is also suing for loss of consortium of her husband. She now must take care of both him and their grandson, who also is disabled.
The truck’s driver, Martin, was cited for driving negligently. Campbell read a statement Martin made in her deposition: “The truck just kept going. I couldn’t stop the truck and I know I had my foot on the brake.”
At one time, there were barriers in the parking spots. Campbell said they were there to prevent customers from parking in front of the store and obstructing the clerk’s view of the pumps. They were removed in the 1990s, he said, after video cameras were installed outside.
Weinberg claimed that at least 17 Cumberland Farms employees, from its 600 stores, have written the company to request that barriers be placed between the store and parking spaces. Cumberland Farms stores often have barriers protecting their gas pumps, roof supports, vacuum cleaners, sheds and ice chests, Weinberg said. Barriers are installed between the parking spaces and the buildings if local authorities require it, he said.
The trial continues today.