Pizza Hut plaintiff applies theory out of sci fi novel 'Demons in the Freezer'

Steve Korris May 15, 2008, 8:45am

Thomas Maag represents Amanda Verett

Plaintiffs in personal injury suits often rely on science, but attorney Amanda Verett relied on science fiction to explain how the doors of a Pizza Hut injured her.

In a deposition, Verett swore that a "vacuum effect" operated just as it did in a book she read, "Demons in the Freezer."

"There is a negative pressure environment inside a level four contagion lab," she said, "so that if there is a breach air rushes in rather than air rushing out."

"The scientists have a lot of trouble getting the doors open because there is a negative pressure inside the containment room," Verett said.

Pizza Hut moved for summary judgment.

Jennifer Kunze of Hinsdale wrote, "It is hard to fathom how anyone, let alone an officer of this court, could premise a personal injury claim entirely on a work of fiction involving a breach in a level four contagion lab."

She wrote that later in the deposition Verett, "in a brief moment of apparent lucidity," admitted that the vacuum theory didn't apply because the inner and outer doors were both open.

"It is patently absurd that plaintiff, who, here again, is an officer of this court, has caused Pizza Hut to expend monies defending this frivolous claim and has taken up this court's valuable time as well," Kunze wrote.

Verett's attorney, Thomas Maag, sued Pizza Hut and Troy police officer Clarence Jackson last year.

Jackson did not answer the complaint, expecting the city to represent him.

Maag, whose complaint had not identified Jackson as a police officer, moved for default judgment against Jackson.

Madison County Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron granted default judgment, but he vacated it after the city stepped forward on Jackson's behalf.

According to Verett's complaint, "Jackson grabbed the door in such a fashion that it caused the door to suddenly and sharply move."

"As a result of the door suddenly and sharply moving, plaintiff was injured," the complaint states.

Verett seeks damages in excess of $50,000.

Kunze wrote, "There is absolutely no evidence in this case that the door through which plaintiff was exiting posed an unreasonable risk of harm."

"In the first instance, plaintiff admits that there is no evidence of a building or municipal code violation with respect to the door," Kunze wrote. "Nor is there any evidence of a design or other defect."

She wrote that there was no evidence of prior complaints regarding the door and no prior injuries related to it.

She wrote that Pizza Hut had no duty to protect a customer from a person grabbing a door and pulling it closed.

"There is absolutely no duty on the part of a store owner to provide a door that cannot be pulled and closed, because this would be an impossible task," Kunze wrote.

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