Seeking Cash Splash from Spilled Soda

The SE Texas Record Aug. 21, 2010, 8:56am

If you want to file a slip-and-fall lawsuit, avoid stores and restaurants whose employees are observant, diligent and energetic. They may spot a spill on the floor before you do and promptly remove a golden opportunity.

Instead, target a company that employs self-absorbed teenagers or myopic seniors. They're more likely to not see a spill or waste time arguing about whose turn it is to clean up. That gives you just enough time to insinuate yourself into harm's way and in hopes of making a tidy profit on a pratfall.

We're not advocating this, mind you. Nor are we suggesting that all slip-and-fall lawsuits are baloney. We have reported enough of them, however, to know that quite a few display a certain theatrical quality.

Cheryl Gilpatrick filed suit in Jefferson County District Court earlier this month against both McDonalds and Wal-Mart, seeking actual and exemplary damages. She claims she suffered severe injuries, incurred medical costs and lost earnings when she slipped and fell on spilled soda near the beverage bin outside the McDonalds restaurant at the Orange Wal-Mart. She alleges that a Wal-Mart employee "saw a customer spilling soda out of the cup while walking away from the coke bin," but took no steps to address the hazard.

If Cheryl, through no fault of her own, did, indeed, suffer injury, she deserves consolation and appropriate compensation. But certain details of the alleged April Fools Day mishap warrant skepticism.

Why didn't Cheryl file suit against the customer responsible for the spill?

Why didn't she blame the Coca-Cola Company for failing to manufacture a non-slip soda?

Were employees really negligent in not cleaning up the spill or had they not gotten to it yet?

Why wasn't Cheryl paying attention when she walked in front of a beverage bin, a place you'd expect to encounter a spill?

And maybe most important of all, why exactly is she suing for more than her actual losses? Who put her up to that?

The judge won't likely ask her lawyer. But we can.

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