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It doesn't get much worse than crashing your car into a group of Girl Scout cookie peddlers outside a grocery store and causing serious injuries. Particularly if you're a lawyer with an OxyContin prescription for a bad back. (Yep, this really happened earlier this year in a Mollie Stone's Market parking lot in Burlingame.)
Although the San Mateo County District Attorney chose not to file charges against San Francisco attorney Paul Glad — news reports said he passed a field sobriety test at the scene — he isn't out of the woods yet. Five people were seriously injured in the crash, including Holly Rogers and her then-6-year-old daughter, Caroline, who have a personal-injury lawsuit pending against Glad. After being struck by Glad's Lexus, Rogers had to have her leg amputated above the knee, while Caroline suffered leg fractures.
But Glad recently turned the tables in court, filing a cross-complaint against Mollie Stone's alleging that the flawed design of the parking lot was partially responsible.
A recap for those who didn't read news stories at the time of the accident: On the afternoon of March 8, Glad drove into a disabled parking spot at the market that faced a table where a group of Girl Scouts and their families were selling cookies on the sidewalk in front of the store. Without shifting into park, Glad began to get out of his car. When he realized his mistake, he jumped back in and slammed what he thought was the brake. It was the gas. According to Rogers' lawsuit, Glad had taken OxyContin that morning (although the district attorney told the Chronicle that the amount of the drug in his system "was not enough to show that he was driving under the influence").
When asked about Glad's claim that the parking lot design contributed to the accident, Jonathan Gertler, an attorney for the Rogers family, surprisingly didn't dismiss it as a desperate attempt by Glad to divert blame. "If you go to the Mollie Stone's parking lot in Burlingame and you look at the parking space that Mr. Glad pulled into, you'll notice a few things about it — if you are a safety engineer — that might stand out," Gertler said. The concrete block at the front of the parking space doesn't cover the entire spot, he said, and could have been straddled by Glad's tires; there's no curb in front of the disabled spot; and there's no barrier between the spot and where the Girl Scouts were standing.
If you are beginning to suspect that Gertler has a reason to back up Glad's claim that the parking lot was unsafe, give yourself a gold star. "I've added Mollie Stone's as a defendant in the action," Gertler finally said.
But is Mollie Stone's actually liable? Reps for the grocery store refused to comment, but personal injury lawyer Reuben Donig, who is not involved in the case, said that it largely depends on whether the parking lot is up to code. But even if it is, the attorneys for Glad and Rogers could still argue that Mollie Stone's didn't use "reasonable care" to prevent injury in its parking lot.
Of course, the chain of responsibility might not end with Mollie Stone's. The store can turn around and file a claim against pretty much anyone involved in the construction or maintenance of the lot, Donig said.