The plaintiff was a lawful visitor to the defendant’s automated car wash. After turning his car over to the attendants, he began his walk toward the end of the car wash to await the reappearance of his car from within the car wash tunnel. As the plaintiff stood at the exit of the car wash tunnel, he noticed his vehicle emerge, unattended by even a single employee of the car wash. The plaintiff then observed his vehicle begin to slowly roll forward in the direction of an incline that led directly toward a major roadway. The plaintiff called out to the employees for help, but nobody from the carwash responded. Believing that his car would continue to roll down the hill and into the busy roadway below, the plaintiff ran toward his vehicle and attempted to open the driver’s door in order to seat himself and bring his vehicle to a safe stop. In the process of opening the driver’s door and gaining control of his car, the plaintiff sustained a sudden rupture of his quadriceps tendon, leaving him in an enormous amount of pain and without the ability to use his leg. The injury required open surgical repair, which was followed by a long and painful rehabilitation period of approximately one year.
Plaintiff’s premises liability case was based on the defendant’s failure to have one or more attendants positioned at the exit from the car wash tunnel, as was their customary practice, so as to safely retrieve and control exiting vehicles. The plaintiff had also considered a potential product liability claim against the designers and/or installers of the car wash system, based on the apparent capacity of the system to disengage an exiting vehicle from the system’s chain drive, despite the absence of a car wash attendant. Plaintiff’s counsel elected to forgo the product liability case and proceed on a theory of straight negligence due to the apparent age of the mechanism and concerns that technical standards at the time the system was originally designed and built were significantly more primitive than current designs.
At the time of the incident, the plaintiff was a 68 year-old tenured professor of electrical engineering at one of the top universities. The total medical bills incurred by the plaintiff in connection with the event were approximately $19,000.
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