Pizza Hut and cop prevail in door injury claim

Steve Korris Dec. 10, 2009, 10:54am


Local lawyer Amanda Verett produced no evidence for a claim that Pizza Hut and a policeman injured her, Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth has ruled.

Ruth granted summary judgment to Pizza Hut of America and Troy officer Clarence Jackson on Nov. 19, ending an injury suit Verett filed in 2007.

Ruth had signaled doom for the claim in October, by calling off a trial that would have started on Nov. 16.

His summary judgment order found no evidence that Jackson engaged in willful and wanton conduct or that Pizza Hut's door posed an unreasonable risk.

Verett's lawyer, Thomas Maag, filed a notice of appeal on Nov. 24.

Verett claimed she suffered a shoulder injury because Pizza Hut negligently owned a faulty door that Jackson pulled one way while she pulled the other way.

To overcome the immunity that generally protects public employees, Verett needed to prove not only negligence but also willful and wanton conduct.

Ruth wrote that "even in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, plaintiff has failed to offer any evidence that Jackson's conduct was willful and wanton."

He wrote, "Plaintiff has admitted Officer Jackson never touched her, did not raise his voice to her before the incident, and said nothing to her as he pulled the door closed."

He found the case against Pizza Hut equally weak.

"Plaintiff has not presented any evidence of either prior complaints by customers or employees regarding the door at issue or prior injuries related to the door," he wrote.

"In fact she testified that she had no problems with the door when she entered the restaurant on the day of the alleged incident," he wrote.

He spotted a contradiction between speculating that it closed suddenly because a hinge didn't work properly and claiming it closed suddenly because Jackson pulled it.

Christine McClimans of Alton represented Jackson.

Stephen Wiggington of Belleville represented Troy.

Andrew Miller and Jennifer Kunze of Hinsdale represented Pizza Hut of America.

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