Verdict - Spring 2011 - (Page 19)
how i obtained justice for my client
Cynthia Nance v. QuikTrip Corporation
BY NELSON TYRONE
indy Nance pulled into QuikTrip (QT) Store Number 737 on Oct. 31, 2007 in Buford, Ga. on her way to pick up her grandkids. QT cappuccino had become part of her routine. But on this trip to QT, things were different. If Cindy could have seen through the closed door of the cappuccino machine she would have seen that an employee had removed an internal part from the machine for cleaning. With the part missing, the boiling water that normally mixes with the cappuccino drink powder would shoot past where the missing part should be. As Cindy pushed the “serve” button, the boiling water that shot from the machine left deep second degree burns from the wrist to the knuckles of her left hand. The burn was just the start of Cindy’s suffering. Nearly a year after the burn had healed, her pain had gotten worse. Cindy’s doctors diagnosed her with a nerve disorder known for the past 30 years as Reﬂex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) and more recently as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). RSD results in excruciating pain and can require heavy doses of narcotic pain medication and implantation of electronic “stimulators” on the patient’s spine. Though RSD can resolve in patients, by the time of trial Cindy’s doctors had told her that her RSD was permanent. Cindy’s case presented us with several challenges. We knew from having tried other RSD cases that helping a jury understand and believe in the horror of RSD is tough. But if we couldn’t prove liability, we would never get the chance to explain Cindy’s life with RSD. We would have to build the case on both fronts.
and found a repairman who could repair the machine and hook it up to a commercial water line. Once we had the water line connected and had studied the manufacturer’s product manual, it took us less than an hour to ﬁgure out that removing a speciﬁc part, the mixing chamber, left boiling water in the machine with nowhere to go but on the customer. We learned during discovery that QT had operated the same machine (roughly four per store) for the past seven years in over 400 stores nationwide. Standing there with the serve button depressed and watching boiling water shoot out from the machine after less than an hour, I knew we could prove that QT had notice of this speciﬁc danger to its customers.
Demonstrating the Machine at Trial
I still had to ﬁgure out a way to present a demonstration of the machine to the jury. Rather than try to have the cappuccino machine connected in the courtroom to a commercial water line with the exact pressure present in a QT store, I decided to capture a reenactment of the machine on videotape. To accomplish this we scheduled an inspection of the machine that burned Cindy. For our inspection we requested that the machine be connected to power and to a commercial water line with pressure equal to a QT store. We then coordinated the inspection so that the 30(b)(6) video deposition of QT’s corporate representative on the machine would occur immediately after the inspection. After a cursory inspection of the machine, we began the 30(b)(6) deposition of QT’s corporate representative in a conference room next door. After the 30(b)(6) witness had denied several times that Cindy’s version was even possible, I instructed the
Figuring Out the Machine
QT f latly denied that the cappuccino machines in its stores would operate the way Cindy claimed. With no surveillance video, and because I knew it was unlikely we would ﬁ nd an expert on this specific make and model cappuccino machine that burned Cindy, I decided to buy a machine myself. I purchased a used machine on eBay
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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Verdict - Spring 2011
Verdict - Spring 2011
Non-Party Apportionment: Not as Easy as Pie
Lawyer of the Day
What Works When Telling Your Client’s Story to the Decider?
How I Obtained Justice for My Client: Cynthia Nance v. QuikTrip Corporation
TLA Update: Athens TLA – The People’s Law School
Book Review: “Waking Up Blind,” including an interview with author Tom Harbin
Technology Resources for Trial Lawyers
Case Updates: What’s New?
Recent Developments in Workers’ Compensation
Verdicts & Settlements: Vick vs. JRR Management Co.
Your Civil Justice PAC around the State
Welcome New GTLA Members!
Index to Advertisers / Advertiser.com
Verdict - Spring 2011