Our client had parked his car in the parking lot of a local retail store. He got out of his car and slipped and fell on a large puddle of oil and/or antifreeze causing him to strike his head and neck. He ultimately was diagnosed as having a herniated disk in his neck.
The owner of the store claimed that it was not responsible for the our client's fall since its employees did not cause the oil spill - arguing that the spill on the parking lot was likely caused by another vehicle on the parking lot for which they had not control.
Partner Allan M. Siegel filed a lawsuit against the storeowner and set out to prove that the fall was not merely caused by a single leaking car on the parking lot, but rather was the result of the store's pattern and practice of failing to adequately monitor and police the activity on its parking lot. During the course of the litigation, Mr. Siegel learned that the store had a policy that forbade customers from doing mechanical work on their cars on its parking lot. The reason this policy was in place was that the storeowner knew that automobile fluids and substances, such as oil and anti-freeze, could pool in the parking lot and create a dangerous condition. Mr. Siegel also uncovered that this "no work" policy was regularly and consciously violated, and that the store's employees would allow customers to do work on their cars and spill fluids in the parking lot. A spot inspection by an expert retained by the firm, revealed that plastic oil bottles were frequently strewn across the parking lot, discarded by customers after adding oil to their cars, further demonstrating the consistent violation of the store policy. This inspection also revealed that the run-off from the parking had caused a large swath of grass to die between the parking lot and the closest storm drain where rain water runs off. The law firm had the soil tested, which demonstrated that the soil surrounding the parking lot was contaminated with high levels of oil and other automobile substances.
When Mr. Siegel had finished dissecting the store's policies and procedures, it was clear that whether that our client's fall was a direct result of the store's failure to take any reasonable efforts to monitor or inspect its parking lot. The case settled at mediation for $100,000.