Car Wash Exit Was Negligently Designed

Synopsis

On May 16, 2006, 42-year-old Sean, a car wash cashier, was working at the Grand Prix Car Wash and Detail in El Sobrante, California. Due to the negligence of several entities involved in the design and construction of the car wash, an oversized pickup truck failed to stop at the end of the car wash conveyor, and rolled downhill toward waiting customers. Sean attempted to stop the pickup but was crushed between it and a concrete planter.

Plaintiff Allegations

Sean sued the property owners for premises liability because the car wash exit area was too short for its intended use and it was followed by a downhill slope into the customer waiting area, which was a dangerous condition for which the owners had failed to inspect, warn or guard against. Sean sued the car wash manufacturer for products liability for its failure to instruct and warn end users that having an exit area shorter than 20 feet would not allow sufficient distance for vehicles exiting the car wash to roll to a stop. Sean sued the specialty installer, the civil engineer, and several entities involved in the design and construction of the car wash on negligence theories because the car wash, as built, failed to include the manufacturer recommended 20 feet of level pavement at the car wash exit; and because the design included a downhill slope into the customer waiting area, which was hidden danger when combined with the short level section. Plaintiffs contended the 20 foot level apron was intended by the manufacturer as a safety feature to allow vehicles enough room to roll to a stop and that it was negligent to fail to include it in the overall site design. Sean defeated summary judgment on the construction statute of limitation because the defect was a combination of factors that was latent, or hidden, to the average consumer.

Injuries/Damages

Sean sustained severe crush injuries to his trachea, cervical spine and shoulder. He sustained vocal cord paralysis, which caused him increasing breathing difficulties. Cervical fractures at C5-6 required immediate fusion surgery. He also suffered shoulder injuries. Sean contended he would not be able to return to work due to his orthopedic injuries and breathing difficulties caused by vocal cord paralysis.

Result

The case settled before trial for $3,800,000. Plaintiff's counsel coordinated all efforts with the workers' compensation case, which settled for an additional $767,000 and included lifetime future medical care.