The brown liquid attack

The SE Texas Record Mar. 14, 2009, 2:51am

Clues suggest the culprit was spilled soda or coffee.

The injurious offender was a "brown liquid," according to the lawsuit.

Common sense suggests that much soda is brown. Coffee is that color, too.

But who knows for sure. The offending event took place in a gas station where dozens if not hundreds of people file in and out in a hurry, 24 hours a day.

Lawyer Jonathan Stovall isn't sure what the mystery liquid was, either. But he is certain his client, 24-year-old Daniela Granger of Beaumont, isn't responsible for the tumble she took caused by a "brown liquid" two summers ago, while she maneuvered through the self-serve fountain beverage section of the local Speedy Stop.

Citing the usual slip-and-fall hurts--"mental anguish,anxiety, pain and illness, neck injuries, and lost physical functioning in her body"--Stovall is demanding the service station and its owners pay Ms. Granger thousands in damages.

The legal argument: they should have warned her about the mysterious "brown liquid."

Sadly, we see cases like these regularly in the Jefferson County Courthouse. For some, trivial calamities offer money-making opportunities. Not that plaintiff's lawyers--trusted officers of our court--are likely to ever dissuade such thinking.

We shouldn't forget that when someone like Ms. Granger can squeeze a settlement out of a business, the lawyer gets a slice of the action as well.

It may be hard for us to imagine Ms. Granger just slipping and falling on some liquid on a tile gas station floor unless she was not paying attention to her surroundings while moving about. Maybe she doesn't think that's her responsibility.

Around soda fountains and coffee counters it's obvious people are pouring liquids. And when people pour, people spill. And spills on a tile floor can be slippery--especially if you're dashing through.

Of course, for most of us, when a slip leads to a nosedive, we settle for being embarrassed and disheveled.

If we didn't, self-serve beverage counters would fast go the way of the swimming pool high dive. Convenience store aisles soon would come equipped with plaintiff-proof guardrails.

It probably was soda. Let's ask the cleaning folks at Speedy Stop. They'll know for sure.

But we shouldn't use our county courts' precious time and resources to litigate what's obvious to anyone not looking for a courthouse payday.

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