Moto Mart president testifies in slip and fall trial

Amelia Flood Sep. 21, 2009, 3:52am

When a convenience store president was asked during trial how much compliance he would like to see with safety training at his stores, Moto Mart president Robert Forsyth said "six" on a scale of 10.

Previous witnesses during this Madison County personal injury trial, including employees of the Edwardsville store, admitted they did not follow the company's procedures when it came to warning patrons of a wet floor.

John Linkes is suing Moto Mart over a trip and fall incident in March 2007.

Forsyth admitted the employees "could have done better," under cross examination by plaintiff counsel Gordon Broom.

The suit has been contentious, with numerous objections to lines of questioning by both sides and disputes over Moto Mart's conduct during the suit.

On Thursday, Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder sanctioned Moto Mart for the second time over its behavior and false answers to interrogatories. She had previously issued a six page order sanctioning the company earlier this month.

As a result of Thursday's sanctions, Crowder will order a directed verdict on the issue of liability in the case. The jury, when it begins deliberations following closing arguments Monday, will decide the damages for the liability counts and the issue of punitive damages. The trial is set to resume at 9 a.m. Sept. 21.

Forsyth was the last witness for the defense, which opened its case Friday. He said that he did not believe that the employees of the Moto Mart had failed to follow safety protocols prior to Linkes' fall.

Linkes and his wife Linda are suing FKG Oil Company, the owner of the Moto Mart chain, for two counts of negligence and loss of consortium as well as punitive damages.

Forsyth also admitted during Broom's cross examination that he did not have formal training in safety issues and that the contention used in the trial that he was the company's "safety director," was wrong, even though he said he writes most of the company's safety policies.

Broom hammered at the training issue, citing manager Jim Warnecke's written note on the retraining sheet of a different employee involved in the Linkes incident. Officially, Moto Mart employees are supposed to watch a safety training video, complete a written test and be verbally retrained.

Warnecke wrote "If you have questions, come and see me?" on the form. Broom contended that the note violated the company's procedures which Forsyth disputed.

FKG's attorney Victor Avellino interrupted several times during Broom's cross examination.

"Please let him answer the question," Avellino told Broom repeatedly. All three men occasionally ran over Crowder as she attempted to make rulings, particularly Forsyth.

At one point Crowder stopped Forsyth as she tried to rule on an objection by Avellino.

"It'll help your attorney a lot if you don't talk until after I do," she said.

The Linkes suit seeks $50,000 per count and punitive damages.

The trial began Sept. 14.

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