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Suit: Gas station layout posed danger from backing cars
Athens-Clarke County, Superior Court
leg-limp; ankle-fracture, ankle; other-plate; other-scar tissue; other-pins/rods/screws; other-hardware implanted; other-scar and/or disfigurement; epidermis-degloving; foot/heel-fracture, foot
Motor Vehicle - Truck, Pedestrian; Premises Liability - Parking Lot; Motor Vehicle - Reversing Vehicle; Premises Liability - Dangerous Condition
Shelley Olin v. Mubarak Corp., Ashraf Nathani, Gulnar Enterprises Inc., James Hawes, Monica Simmons and Marathon Oil Co., No. SU12CV0172
January 26, 2017
Shelley Olin (Female, 38 Years)
Andrew T. Rogers; Deitch & Rogers LLC; Atlanta, GA, for Shelley Olin ■ Gilbert H. Deitch; Deitch & Rogers LLC; Atlanta, GA, for Shelley Olin ■ Keith E. Fryer; Fryer, Shuster & Lester, P.C.; Atlanta, GA, for Shelley Olin
Sean Alexander; Accident Reconstruction; Barnesville, GA called by: Andrew T. Rogers, Gilbert H. Deitch, Keith E. Fryer ■ Herman Hill; P.E.; Transportation/Highway Safety -- See also Technical: Safety; Atlanta, GA called by: Andrew T. Rogers, Gilbert H. Deitch, Keith E. Fryer
Marathon Oil Co.,
Jones Petroleum Co.,
Gulnar Enterprises Inc.
Charles M. Dalziel Jr.; Gregory, Doyle, Calhoun & Rogers, LLC; Marietta, GA, for Marathon Oil Co., Jones Petroleum Co. ■ Neal C. Scott; Thomas, Scott & Martin; Atlanta, GA, for Gulnar Enterprises Inc. ■ Craig P. Terrett; Cruser, Mitchell, Novitz, Sanchez, Gaston & Zimet, LLP; Atlanta, GA, for James Hawes, Monica Simmons ■ J. David Crowe; Athens, GA, for Mubarak Corp., Ashraf Nathani, Gulnar Enterprises Inc.
Zurich North America for Gulnar
In August 2011, plaintiff Shelley Olin, 38, was filling her Mazda 626 with gas at a Marathon gas station and convenience store owned and operated by Gulnar Enterprises Inc. in Athens. There were parking spaces between the pump island and the front of the store, and the spaces were perpendicular to the storefront. Monica Simmons parked her Ford Expedition in one of the spaces and went inside to pay for gas. Her uncle, James Hawes, was going to move the Expedition to the pumps. However, when he tried to back out of the space, he backed into Olin's car, pinning Olin's feet and ankles between her car and the pump island. Hawes was charged with drunken driving. Olin claimed degloving injuries and orthopedic fractures. Olin sued Gulnar on a theory of premises liability, alleging that there was not enough room between the parking spaces and the gas pumps for drivers to back out of the parking spaces safely. Olin also sued Simmons, Hawes, Jones Petroleum Co. (the store's gasoline supplier) and Marathon Oil Co., as well as Mubarak Corp. and Ashraf Nathani. Mubarak was the store's previous owner and had moved the pumps from the side of the store to the front in order to be able to expand the store building for more retail space. Nathani was Mubarak's owner and his daughter owned Gulnar. Olin settled with Simmons, Hawes, Jones Petroleum Co. and Marathon Oil Co. for undisclosed amounts before trial and they were dismissed from the case. Mubarak and Nathani were dismissed after filing for bankruptcy. The case went to trial against Gulnar only, but the jury was allowed to consider the negligence of Simmons and Hawes for the purpose of apportionment. Olin maintained that the layout of the premises was hazardous and that Gulnar knew or should have known of the dangerous layout. Olin's counsel introduced evidence of 13 similar incidents at this location in the previous five years, in which backing drivers had struck either the pumps or vehicles at the pumps. Olin's accident reconstruction expert testified that, if the parking spaces had been angled, or if the pumps had not been so close to the front of the store, the Expedition would not have hit the Mazda. Gulnar denied negligence and primarily argued that Hawes was at fault for driving drunk, backing too fast and not watching where he was going. In response, Hawes denied having been drinking and said that the Expedition inexplicably shot backward out of the parking space. (Plaintiff's counsel said a jury found Hawes "not guilty" of drunken driving, but this fact did not come into evidence at the Olin trial.) The defense also argued that a contractor and architect decided where to put the pumps and, accordingly, were at fault. However, the architect contended that he had warned Nathani that the pumps were too close to the store and that drivers would not have enough room to back out, but that Nathani ignored his warnings. The defense noted that Athens-Clarke County had granted a certificate of occupancy for the building after the pumps were moved and argued that Mubarak and, later, Gulnar were entitled to rely on the county's approval of the pump location. However a county building inspector reportedly testified that a certificate of occupancy does not address the location of gas pumps. The defense accident reconstruction expert questioned the reliability of Olin's accident reconstruction.
Olin was taken by ambulance to the hospital. She was diagnosed with severe degloving injuries and compound fractures of the bones in both feet and ankles. She underwent multiple surgeries, including placement of plates and screws in her right ankle. Olin recovered well, but continued to experience pain and a limp. She also had severe scarring on her feet and ankles. Olin missed five to six months of work. Her previous activities included hiking, biking, acting and dancing, all of which she claimed are now limited. She sought damages for past and future pain and suffering, physical impairment and disfigurement. She did not seek medical bills or lost wages.
The jury apportioned 80-percent liability to Gulnar, and 10-percent liability each to Simmons and Hawes, both of whom had been previously dismissed. The jury's award of $1.4 million was reduced to $1.12 million to reflect the jury's apportionment of liability. The case was settled post-verdict for $1.17 million.
After the verdict, while Olin was seeking court costs from 2014 through the date of the verdict, she and Gulnar reached a $1.17 million settlement.
This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's counsel and counsel for Marathon and Jones. Counsel for Simmons and Hawes did not respond to the reporter's phone calls. Gulnar's counsel declined to contribute to the report.