Armbruster and Cooney
St. Clair County jurors awarded a truck driver $346,100 in a lawsuit alleging he fell at a Flying J Truckstop while using the shower.
Jurors reached a verdict in favor of plaintiff Randy Brookman on March 11 in St. Clair County Circuit Judge Heinz Rudolf’s courtroom.
Brookman was awarded $294,185 for loss of a normal life and $51,915 for pain and suffering. However, jurors held Brookman 35 percent liable for his injuries, reducing his recoverable damages to $224,965.
Brookman was represented at trial by Charles Armbruster III and Michael Blotevogel of Armbruster Dripps Winterscheidt & Blotevogel LLC in Maryville.
Defendant Pilot Travel Centers LLC, going business as Pilot/Flying J Truckstop, was represented by John Cooney and Justin Zimmerman of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP in Edwardsville.
Brookman filed his complaint Jan. 23, 2017. He argued that on Oct. 14, 2015 he was a customer at the Oakwood Flying J Truckstop. While there, he claimed he was using the shower when he slipped and fell.
He claimed the “shower was unreasonably slippery because a degreaser/cleaner had just been applied to the surface of the shower, making the surface unusually slippery and dangerous, and not reasonably safe.”
As a result, Brookman claimed he suffered injuries to his left shoulder and neck, endures nervousness and anxiety, incurred medical expenses, suffered lost wages
Brookman alleged the defendant breached its duty to keep its premises safe by failing to remove, remedy, barricade, or warn of the condition.
According to a statement of the case, the defendant denied that it was negligent and denied that Brookman was injured to the extent claimed.
In its answer to the complaint, Pilot argued that the plaintiff caused or contributed to his own alleged injuries by failing to keep a careful lookout, failing to observe and heed an open and obvious condition, failing to exercise ordinary care and failing to mitigate damages.
The defendant also argued that the plaintiff assumed the risk of using the shower with knowledge of the alleged degreaser/cleaner.
Pilot filed a motion for directed verdict at the close of all evidence, arguing that Brookman failed to present evidence of the defendant’s negligence.
“Here, there is no evidence of any training failure by Pilot,” the motion stated. “There is also no evidence that Pilot was aware of any dangerous condition that they could warn potential shower users of. Additionally, there is no evidence of any failure to inspect on behalf of Pilot. The evidence shows that the shower was cleaned and then locked prior to plaintiff’s use.”
The defendant also argued that the condition of the shower area was open and obvious.
“The condition of the shower and the presence of any foreign substance sufficient to be a ‘dangerous condition’ would be visible and apparent to a reasonable person in the same location,” the motion stated.
Brookman also filed a motion for a directed verdict on the issue of comparative fault.
Brookman argued that the defendant failed to produce evidence that he failed to keep a proper lookout, contributing to his injuries.
“Here, at the most, defendant has testimony by plaintiff that he does not recall whether or not he looked at the floor of the shower before entering it,” the motion stated.
Brookman further argued that he has taken thousands of showers at truck stops and the defendant provided testimony suggesting truck drivers have taken thousands of showers at its facility, with Brookman being the first to report a fall.
Additionally, Brookman testified that he did not see the substance he slipped on and only felt it on his back.
“When the allegations of contributory negligence is a failure to see the defect, but the parties agree that even if the plaintiff had looked the defect would not have been visible, a directed verdict on contributory negligence is proper,” the motion stated.
St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 17-L-25