No second serving in Pizza Hut door injury suit, Byron rules

Steve Gonzalez Aug. 30, 2007, 3:45am


Madison County Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron has put an end to Amanda Verett and Tom Maag's efforts to collect a default judgment entered against a Troy police officer in the Pizza Hut door injury case.

On Aug. 24, Byron denied Verett's second motion for a default judgment against officer Clarence Jackson.

Verett, an Edwardsville family lawyer, filed a personal injury suit against Jackson in March alleging she was injured while walking out the door of Pizza Hut on Feb. 12. She claimed she held open the door to allow herself and Jackson to exit and was injured as a result of door's sudden movement.

In spite of Byron's denial of Verett's motion for default judgment, the case is still very much alive. Verett also named Pizza Hut and One O Nine Corp. as defendants. Hearings are set in September on a variety of matters including Jackson's motion to dismiss.

"Jackson grabbed the door in such a fashion that it caused the door to suddenly and sharply move," stated the complaint written by Verett's attorney Tom Maag.

Verett and Maag did not mention in their complaint that Jackson was an on-duty police officer responding to a 911 call at the Pizza Hut because Verett was allegedly causing a disturbance.

Verett had claimed Jackson violated his duty to use ordinary care for the safety of others when he operated the Pizza Hut door which caused her to sustain an acromion process impingement in her right shoulder.

She claimed that due to the injury she suffered at Pizza Hut, she was unable to avoid falling on a later date and tore tendons and suffered injuries to her left hand and wrist, including a partial tear of the pronator quadratus muscle at the dorsum.

On May 16, Byron awarded Verett $311,700 in a default judgment against Jackson after he failed to answer the complaint.

In her affidavit in support of the default judgment, Verett stated that after Jackson grabbed the door she felt a pain in her right shoulder.

She claimed that several days later, the shoulder began to hurt worse; she sought treatment from Granite City chiropractor Dr. Mark Eavenson.

Verett stated that Eavenson decided to go with a conservative treatment. However, she says, it was not sufficient because she had a torn rotator cuff and an acromion impingement in her right shoulder causing her to have surgery on April 16, by Dr. Richard Lehman.

Verett also claimed she will require two additional surgeries and had already incurred $22,000 in medical expenses. She stated the two additional surgeries will cost $57,000.

Verett also stated she is unable to drive any great distance without extreme pain.

"My shoulder is always hurting," Verett wrote in June. "I am in agony because of the injury that Mr. Clarence Jackson inflicted upon me."

"The pain is expected to continue for several months into the future."

Matthew Verett, Amanda's husband, also filed an affidavit in support of the default judgment.

He claimed the day the incident occurred, Amanda came home in "great pain and discomfort."

"This was not a simple minor bruise," Matthew Verett wrote.

He claimed the medication was not helping his wife and he found her crying in the living room twice.

Matthew Verett claimed that thanks to physical therapy and medication, Amanda seemed to be getting better. But four days after the Pizza Hut incident, she fell in the driveway because of ice and snow.

"I had to help Amanda brush and wash her hair, fasten her brassiere and button her shirts," he wrote.

Matthew Verett also claimed Amanda cried for hours before the surgery because she was scared and in a lot of pain. He also claimed his love life had been very poor since the injury because Amanda is often in too much pain.

"In my opinion, as a nursing student at SIUE, all of the injuries to Amanda's right shoulder and arm were caused by Clarence Jackson jerking the door out of her hand," Matthew Verett wrote.

After learning of the judgment from his lawyer in another matter, Jackson filed an answer claiming he is statutorily immune from allegations of negligence because Verett's suit arose from his response to a 911 call at the Pizza Hut.

In his motion to vacate, Jackson said that once he was served with the summons, he turned it over to the city of Troy for the assumption of his defense pursuant to statute.

He also stated that he never even came into contact with Verett.

Byron vacated the order on June 22, over Maag's objections. Maag appealed Byron's decision, but it was tossed out by the Fifth District earlier this month.

Maag asked Byron to enter a default again in late July arguing Jackson was still in default and that it "cannot be disputed."

Byron was not moved by Maag's argument and denied the motion.

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