Coca-Cola removes suit over Subway's fountain machine to federal court

By Bethany Krajelis | Mar 21, 2013


One of the defendants in a Madison County lawsuit over a soda fountain machine has removed the matter to federal court.

The Coca-Cola Co. on Friday filed notice to remove Lauren Welch’s personal injury suit to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

Welch, a Macoupin County resident, filed the suit in Madison County Circuit Court in November 2012, at which time she named Zulfi, Inc. as the only defendant. Zulfi owns and operates the Subway restaurant on Madison Avenue in Granite City, where Welch’s alleged injury took place.

She amended her complaint in January to add Coca-Cola and William Nejelski as defendants. The suit states that Coca-Cola serviced the soda fountain machine and that Nejelski does business as B&B Distributors, which owned and leased the ice maker that sat on top of the machine at Zulfi’s Subway.

Welch’s suit stems from her Feb. 10, 2011 visit to the Subway restaurant, where she made a purchase that included a fountain drink.

Her suit asserts that she “attempted to fill the cup she was given with the drink that she had purchased at the soda fountain, when a plastic cover that was meant to sit at the top of the machine came loose and fell striking (Welch) in the head and causing her to wrench her neck in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid having the plastic cover strike her head.”

As a result of the incident, Welch claims she had to seek medical treatment, has and will continue to incur medical costs and suffered a loss of income.

Welch asserts that Zulfi violated its duty to warn her about dangerous or defective conditions at the restaurant and that Coca-Cola and Nejelski were negligent in their alleged failure to provide proper maintenance to the ice and fountain machines.

Each of the three counts in Welch’s complaint seeks a judgment of more than $50,000 plus costs.

In its removal notice, Coca-Cola contends that the federal court has jurisdiction over Welch’s suit because there is a diversity of citizenship between the parties and the amount in controversy is more than $75,000.

Zulfi, according to the notice, consents to the removal and Nejelski has not yet entered an appearance in the case.

Coca-Cola’s removal notice was submitted by Barry Noeltner of Heyl, Royster, Voelker & Allen in Edwardsville.  Christopher Geldmacher of Sauter Sullivan in St. Louis represents Welch.

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