Store Accident Results in 346,000 Verdict for Plaintiff Shopper – Corbett v. Menard Inc.

The phrase “shop til you drop” took on new meaning for Mary Corbett as she was shopping at a Menards in Crestwood, Illinois. The 53 year-old was shopping when a large box fell on her back, forcing her to the ground. Corbett filed an Illinois personal injury lawsuit against the hardware store for back and shoulder injuries she sustained as a result of her shopping accident, Mary Corbett v. Menard Inc., 07 L 65006.

The 2005 Menards accident occurred through no fault of Corbett’s. Rather the accident was caused by a Menards employee who had placed an eight-foot long box of molding upright against a moving display. The box then fell into the nearby aisle as Corbett was walking by. The Menards employee not only helped Corbett to her feet, but also followed the proper procedure and completed an incident report documenting the general facts of Corbett’s accident.

Corbett was able to walk out of the store on her own, without any assistance, but decided to visit her primary care physician when she still was experiencing pain the following day. She was referred to an orthopedic surgeon for complaints of neck pain, who diagnosed Corbett with a cervical strain. A diagnosis of cervical strain is common following auto accidents or fall injuries and is generally relieved with physical therapy or rest. However, Corbett’s pain continued and she was eventually diagnosed with a herniated cervical disc, which required a cervical fusion surgery in order to repair it. Following her surgery, Corbett then began to undergo treatment for a shoulder injury she claimed was also caused by the falling box.

However, while Menards admitted liability for its employee’s negligence in causing Corbett’s accident, it contested the extent of her injuries. At the Illinois trial, Menards brought in medical experts to testify that neither the cervical fusion or subsequent shoulder surgery were caused by the accident. Instead, the defense argued that both surgeries were due to pre-existing degenerative neck and shoulder injuries for which Corbett had been treating for at least a year before the Menards accident.

However, as seen the car accident lawsuit of Thomson v. Mueller, juries are becoming less inclined to deny damages to plaintiffs who have pre-existing medical conditions. The reasoning seems to be that just because a person had a prior medical problem does not mean that an accident does not make it worse. The defendant’s claims were also weakened by its inability to produce data on the size or weight of the box that fell on Corbett.

At the trial’s conclusion, the jury found in favor of the plaintiff, awarding $346,000 in damages. While this verdict far exceeded the defendant’s request for a verdict of $8,500; it did not include the plaintiff’s medical bills for her shoulder surgery. Therefore, while the jury held Mendards responsible for Corbett’s neck injuries and lost time from work, it did not find the store liable for her unrelated shoulder injury.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois personal injury matters for individuals and families for more than 35 years in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Hazel Crest, Prospect Heights, Schaumburg, and Park Ridge.

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