Premises Liability - Restaurant; Failure to Warn
Dangerous Condition; Negligent Repair and/or Maintenance
Gas station failed to address puddle, fallen patron claimed
Ronald S. Williams v. CST Brands aka Cornerstore dba Valero Gas Station, No. 18-02-01415
Montgomery County District Court, 410th, TX
March 23, 2020
Brad Dickens; Walters, Balido & Crain LLP; Dallas, TX for CST Brands Inc.
On June 22, 2016, plaintiff Ronald Williams, 67, entered the side door of a Valero gas station located in Montgomery County. He walked across a floor mat just inside the door. When he stepped off the mat, he slipped and fell. He suffered an injury of a knee. Williams sued the gas station's owner, CST Brands Inc. The lawsuit alleged that CST Brands was negligent and grossly negligent in allowing, and failing to warn of, an unreasonably dangerous condition of the premises.
Williams claimed that the mat was wet from rainwater tracked in by customers and that CST Brands failed to inspect its premises in a timely and proper fashion. After Williams fell, CST Brands employees put "wet floor" signs in front of the store and at the side entrance. The manager's incident report said that the cause of the fall was from recent rain and that a "wet floor" sign should have been set up. Security camera footage showed a puddle outside the side entrance just before the incident.
The gross negligence claim was based primarily on former employees' testimony that, after heavy rains, water would pool at the side entrance. Williams' counsel contended that CST Brands was aware of the condition for years and consciously disregarded the safety of its customers by refusing to remedy it.
CST Brands employees who were on duty that day denied seeing water inside the store. Defense counsel argued that Williams was a chronic alcoholic who admitted drinking 12 beers a day, and hospital records indicated that Williams confirmed that he had been drinking on the date of the incident. Williams also had other significant pre-existing conditions, which, in conjunction with his drinking, probably caused the fall, the defense argued. Specifically, before the incident, he had undergone a total right knee replacement in October 2015, as well as spinal fusion and shoulder surgeries, and he had been scheduled for a left knee replacement.
A defense motion for summary judgment was denied in April 2019.
Williams suffered a displaced, comminuted periprosthetic fracture of his right knee, which had been reconstructed. The fracture involved the distal region of the right leg's femur
Williams was retrieved by an ambulance, and he was transported to a hospital. The next day, Williams' prior treating surgeon, Dr. Larry Likover, performed a revision of the total knee replacement, debridement and retrograde intramedullary nailing of the femur. Other diagnoses included decreased range of motion, abnormal gait, cellulitis, swelling, edema, erythema and a posterior cruciate ligament avulsion.
Soon after the June 23 surgery, Williams was transferred to an inpatient rehabilitation facility, where he underwent physical therapy through mid-July 2016. After his discharge home, he followed up regularly with an orthopedic clinic and his treating surgeon. He also underwent outpatient physical therapy from September to December 2016, and again from January to April 2017.
Williams continued to complain of worsening pain and instability in his knee. On May 31, 2017, after diagnosing a failed total knee replacement and avulsion of the posterior cruciate ligament, the surgeon performed a revision.
Over the next two years, Williams fell three more times and underwent surgery and physical therapy each time. He claimed that each fall was a result of the injury sustained at the gas station.
On July 27, 2017, Williams fell while getting out of bed and sustained a fracture just above the prior fracture. He claimed that he was still recovering from his prior surgeries at the time of this incident. On Aug. 2, 2017, Likover performed another revision of the total knee replacement, after which Williams underwent physical therapy.
On Oct. 25, 2017, Williams tripped and fell at home and sustained yet another fracture, just above the prior one. He claimed that he was still recovering from the prior surgery at the time of this incident. Likover performed an open reduction internal fixation, after which Williams underwent about 10 weeks of physical therapy. He subsequently developed an infection at the surgical site and had to be hospitalized again. Shortly thereafter, he suffered a mild stroke, but he did not relate the stroke to his fall at the gas station.
Williams recovered from the infection but continued to experience significant pain and limitations as a result of the femur fractures. He used a walker and, because of his total knee replacement and femur fractures, he was considered a permanent, extreme fall risk.