Storozuk v. Cumberland Farms

The firm represented Roger and Marion Storozuk and sued Cumberland Farms, a large chain of convenience stores on the east coast. In July, 2001, Roger Storozuk was struck and crippled by a car as he walked out of the front door of a Cumberland Farms store in South Deerfield, Massachusetts. The store's surveillance camera watched as a pickup truck driven by another customer pulled into a parking space directly in front of the door and directly facing the narrow pedestrian walkway. There were no curbs, wheel blocks, or bollards (vertical barriers) between the parking space and the walkway. The driver lost control of her truck, which lurched forward. The truck struck Mr. Storozuk and drove him through the plate glass of the storefront window. His various severe injuries included amputation of his left leg above the knee. Paul was retained because he had successfully represented clients in two almost identical cases. In the first case, Paul and attorney Jim Rabbitt obtained a judgment of $8.6 million for a client in 1988. In the second case, Paul represented a man who was seriously injured when struck by a car while using a wall-mounted pay phone in the parking lot of a Cumberland Farms.

Investigation and discovery in the Storozuk lawsuit yielded several disturbing facts. First, Cumberland Farms had originally recognized the need for a barrier. There had once been barriers between the parking spots and the sidewalk, but these were inexplicably removed by Cumberland Farms as part of a remodeling years before Mr. Storozuk's accident.

Second, two years prior to Mr. Storozuk's crippling, another customer had driven his vehicle through the same storefront window from the same parking space. Third, Cumberland Farms had ample prior knowledge that the design of its premises was unsafe and posed a danger to the lives and limbs of its customers. Documents produced in the lawsuit by Cumberland Farms reveal at least 165 incidents in the previous five years where vehicles had driven into Cumberland Farms stores, (in some stores more than once). About 90 of these were vehicles losing control and driving into the front of the store, unimpeded due to the lack of any barriers, poles or meaningful curbs. On several occasions over the years, the result was the same: severe injuries or death to the customer. Weinberg & Garber engaged nationally-recognized experts on safety, design, medical and life-care issues as part of its preparation for trial. Attorneys Weinberg and Garber also took up for interlocutory appeal a ruling on the issues of whether M.G.L. c. 93A applies to the case. On January 6, 2004, after one day of trial, the parties settled the case.

After the case settled, the Storozuks, along with Paul, did not give up in their attempts to have bollards installed at the store. Paul met with Cumberland Farms' risk manager, as well as the Town of Deerfield's building inspector. During the course of these discussions, a third accident happened at the site, at which point the Building Inspector ordered that bollards be installed. The store complied with the order.