Just ask Gonzo: Spilled coffee suit removed to federal court

Steve Gonzalez Jul. 26, 2006, 10:30am

Question: Please update the case of the woman whose road trip turned into a nightmare when the wind blew open her motor home door, hitting her in the head causing her to spill hot coffee.

How can the manufacturer be liable for bad luck or being in the wrong place at the wrong time? People are sue happy these days as your publication is eager to point out week after week.

I truly am sorry that she was burned by her coffee, I really am, but why would her motor home company have to pay for it? I guess she could not sue the wind.

Allison Smith

Gonzo: The case you're referring to is Jane Knight v. Alfa Leisure Inc. Knight claims Alfa Leisure failed to provide a door heavy enough to withstand the wind.

Knight was on a road trip home from Arizona when a gust of wind blew open the door of her Alfa Fifth Wheel Trailer, hitting her in the head and spilling her coffee.

Knight was at a gas station in Amarillo, Texas, on March 25, 2002, when the incident allegedly took place.

She filed suit in Madison County Circuit Court March 16, 2005, claiming the door to her 2001 recreational vehicle was defective. She is seeking at least $100,000 in damages for severe and permanent injuries which have caused her to incur pain and suffering, loss of a normal life, medical expenses, and permanent disability and disfigurement.

On April 7, 2005, Alfa Leisure removed the suit to federal court arguing that a complete diversity of citizenship existed between the two parties and the amount Knight was seeking exceeded $75,000.

United States District Judge David Herndon agreed and kept the case.

On Sept. 12, 2005, Alfa Leisure filed a third-party complaint against Temple Products, the supplier of the door latch, alleging Temple failed to equip their door latches with any safety device to stabilize the latches in an open position so the would could not blow them.

Not much else has happened in the case however, Magistrate Judge Philip Frazier is holding a settlement conference on Aug. 16.

Knight is represented by Thomas Falb of Alton. Alfa Leisure is represented by James Cooper of Clayton.

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