Jury agrees: crashes of cars into stores are stores’ fault

For some time trial lawyers have been promoting the theory that when runaway cars smash into convenience stores and other retail locations, it is the stores’ fault for not installing protective bollards. This theory has now taken a big leap forward in a case in which a Western Massachusetts jury has told Cumberland Farms to pay $32 million over a crash in which a motorist who’d had a stroke careened off a road and into a Chicopee store. [Springfield Republican; more at Fair Warning, which as is its wont takes the plaintiff’s-bar side]


  • Simple, just put up signs saying this is a crash free business. No more crashes, problem solved.

    • OK. At least the award went to innocent bystanders, not the driver.

      I, too, wonder about a standard of care that would make a company take steps to ensure its storefronts are crashproof. On the other hand, we make stores put in other safety devices, such as fire suppression systems and comply with other OSHA regulations. What’s another few thousand dollars?

      • The problem is that the company had complied with all of the safety requirements Allen.

        They are getting hit for something that was not mandated.

        Secondly, those bollards are not there to protect people or to increase the safety of anyone. They are there to protect the store from being robbed by “crash and dash” thieves who would take an old beater vehicle, crash it through the front door, grab merchandise and cash, and then take off.

        The bollards are not safety related.

        This is another case where a company did nothing wrong and are being forced to pay for the actions of another person.

  • From Allan: “I, too, wonder about a standard of care that would make a company take steps to ensure its storefronts are crushproof.”
    From the article: “When the vehicle crashed into the store, it was traveling at between 72 and 84 mph; …”

    Nothing is crash proof. What does it take to stop a car (or SUV, or fully loaded 80,000 pound truck), traveling in excess of highway speeds. Steel bollards might stop a car lurching from a confused driver with their foot on the gas instead of the brake. But does every small business need to fortify like a US embassy?
    Liability requires some element of forseeability. And if you think this is a reasonably foreseeable risk, then by a similar token, what are you doing to protect guests in your home from runaway traffic?

  • So what happens when the bollards stop the car, but, kill the driver and/or passengers? I’ll lay odds that the store gets sued again. Damned if you do……………….

  • Next up: suing the car companies for not installing automatic braking. I give it about 2 years.

    • I think you are being a bit optimistic. I give it about 6 months.

  • An interesting discussion. But I think it raises a most basic policy issue: whose responsibility is it to insure against loss of life and limb? If we had universal health care, we could take care of medical bills. But the loss of life may well cause severe financial strain to families.

    Perhaps life insurance is the answer. After all, if you think your life is worth $3,000,000 to your family and you have no insurance, why should society pick up the slack?

  • What’s a few thousand dollars of someone else’s money?

    /the whole truth

  • then the bollards are the cause of an ADA suit. Then someone gets pinned between the bollards and an errant vehicle and sues. Our tort system is a joke.

    • “Our tort system is a joke.”

      It isn’t very funny.

      Our entire court system, civil and criminal is FUBAR.

  • Juries don’t think about the long term impact of their decisions.

    In this case, person/people got hurt. That is sad, we feel sorry for them. Someone should pay them money for their injuries. No one involved has any money. Hey look the business has money. Make them pay.

  • I guess they sued the business because they felt a jury wouldn’t fall for another “sudden acceleration” claim against the car manufacturer.

    I feel very bad, of course, for the innocent person who was injured, and I may have been advised to and done the same thing had I had the same misfortune.

    But the outcome will be all stores will become fortresses like embassy buildings, and there will be the lawsuits, too, from people who hit into the bollards and get injured.