A 57-year-old man from Illinois was standing in front of a 7-Eleven when he was struck by a car and pinned against the storefront.
The man filed a personal injury lawsuit against 7-Eleven, and the convenience store chain settled the case for $91 million before the trial even began.
On the morning of September 20, 2017, a 57-year-old man, who wishes to be identified as Carl Garcia, was standing outside a 7-Eleven in Bensenville, Illinois.
Carl was enjoying a cup of coffee he purchased at the convenience store and waiting for his carpool to arrive to take him to his job at a food processing plant.
A vehicle pulled into a parking spot in front of where Carl was standing. Instead of stepping on the car’s brake, the driver accidentally stepped on the accelerator. The car jumped the curb and pinned Carl against the storefront.
As a result of the crash, both of Carl’s legs were amputated above the knee. Carl was hospitalized for months and now walks using prosthetic legs.
Attorneys for Carl Garcia filed a personal injury lawsuit in Cook County, alleging that the accident could have been prevented if 7-Eleven had installed bollards between the storefront and the parking spaces.
A bollard is a sturdy vertical post. Bollards are common at gas stations, where they’re used to prevent cars from crashing into gas pumps.
The attorneys also noted that 7-Eleven should have foreseen the accident because there had been more than 7,000 similar accidents at 7-Elevens around the country over the last 15 years.
“We have evidence 7-Eleven had been getting sued for these kinds of incidents going back to 1990,” said one of the attorneys for Carl, who also noted that, on average, a car crashes into a 7-Eleven store somewhere in the country about once a day.
The $91 million settlement
The parties reached a $91 million settlement agreement before the case could go to trial. On February 13, 2023, a Cook County judge approved the settlement. The settlement is the largest pre-trial settlement in a personal injury case in the state’s history.
“Carl was in shock [when he received news of the settlement],” said Carl’s attorney. “Just silent amazement.”
Although large settlements in personal injury cases often go uncollected due to the defendant filing for bankruptcy or not having sufficient funds, Carl will undoubtedly receive the full settlement amount from 7-Eleven. The convenience store reported more than $86 billion in revenue in 2022.
Personal injury cases are typically handled on a contingent fee basis, meaning the attorney receives a percentage of the settlement (usually around 25 percent).
When are businesses responsible for accidents that occur on their premises?
If you're injured on someone else's property, whether it's because you slipped and fell or were struck by a vehicle, the property owner may be liable.
To establish liability against a property owner, you must prove that:
- The property owner had a duty to protect you from harm,
- The property owner breached their duty to protect you from harm, and
- You were injured as a direct result of the breach.
How do you know if a property owner has a duty to protect you from harm? And if a property owner does have a duty, do they have to protect you from every possible type of harm?
The specific obligations of a property owner depend on the plaintiff’s classification (i.e., the reason the plaintiff was on the property). Each state’s premises liability laws are a little different, but, for the most part, the classifications and duties look something like this:
|Invitee||An individual who is invited or permitted to enter the premises for the benefit of the owner (for example, a customer in a retail store).||An owner owes an invitee the highest degree of care, which includes:
|Licensee||An individual who is on the premises with permission from the owner for their own convenience, curiosity, or entertainment (for example, a hunter on private property).||An owner has a duty to:
|Trespasser||An individual who is on the premises without permission from the owner.||An owner has a duty to:
When it comes to retail stores, such as 7-Eleven, customers are invitees. Accordingly, retail stores typically have a duty to locate and fix (or at least provide a warning about) dangerous conditions.
In the case of Carl Garcia, Carl’s lawyers were able to show that the proximity of the parking spaces to the store created a dangerous condition that should have been fixed by putting up bollards or, at the very least, putting up warning signs.