A Massachusetts car accident resulted in an estate filing suit against a convenience store chain after a speeding driver ran into the deceased as he crashed into the front of the store. The deceased’s husband and executor alleged the company had experienced several front-of-store “car strikes” and knew of the risks cars had to its store. The estate claimed bollards or other barriers could have been erected along the walkway and entrance to the parking lot. The estate argued this would have prevented a car traveling at high speed from injuring anyone, particularly the deceased in this suit. A jury agreed and awarded the estate over $32 Million in compensatory damages, eventually reduced by the court to $20 million; and $10 in punitive damages, which was waived since it did not meet the $5000 minimum.
The convenience store chain appealed, arguing it should have been granted a new trial after it improperly admitted an internal report about 485 prior car strikes at other stores. The chain believed each accident referred to should have been subjected to a “rigorous” review to determine whether or not it was substantially similar to the accident in this suit. At trial and during the appeal, the chain contended the accident was random and unforeseeable. In response, the estate looked for reinstatement of the $32 million compensatory damages award, asserting the remittitur of the damages was improper.
The location of the events was similar to other property owned by the chain gas station and convenience stores. The store was surrounded by parking spaces for those stopping into the store as well as gas pumps. No barriers or devices were set along the walkway. The store was located at the “corner” of a three-way intersection that did not meet at 90 degree angles. Two of the three entrances to the property required drivers to slow down to make a turn and enter. One did not. This entrance allowed drivers to come straight from the apex of the intersection onto the property without reducing speed or turning. The situation was dangerous enough for a store employee to complain to two separate managers, but nothing was done to alter the set-up of the property.