Lewis Brisbois Madison County Team Secures Significant Appellate Victory in Truck Stop Toilet Paper Injury Suit

Edwardsville, Ill. (February 6, 2020) - Madison County Partner John F. Cooney and Associate Justin Zimmerman recently secured a significant appellate victory for their client, Pilot Travel Centers LLC (Pilot), when an Illinois appeals court nullified a jury verdict of over $560,000 that was initially entered against the firm’s client.

The plaintiff in this case worked as a waitress at a Denny’s restaurant inside a truck stop that Pilot owned. She sustained injuries when an industrial-sized roll of toilet paper fell on her head as she entered a stall inside the public restroom at the truck stop. She sued Pilot, alleging that it was liable for her injuries because it (1) failed to maintain its premises in a safe condition, (2) failed to inspect the restrooms periodically for dangerous conditions, (3) failed to provide safe pathways to and from the stalls, and (4) permitted the premises to become and remain in a hazardous condition.

At the conclusion of the trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and the circuit court judge denied our motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. Messrs. Cooney and Zimmerman then filed an appeal.

On appeal, the majority of an Illinois appeal panel determined that Pilot had no duty to protect the plaintiff from her injuries. The panel explained that Pilot could not reasonably have foreseen that a third party would place a roll of toilet paper on top of a restroom stall door “in some sort of prank or intentional attack upon the plaintiff.” Instead, the panel concluded that “this was an unusual, bizarre, and unexpected event that neither the plaintiff nor anyone from Pilot had ever seen or heard of before.”

The majority of the panel further reasoned that the toilet paper could not have been on top of the stall “for a significant amount of time” because travelers used the busy restroom every five or 10 minutes. It concluded that “because the plaintiff failed to establish that the toilet paper roll was on top of the door for a period of time long enough that Pilot should have or could have discovered it, we cannot find that Pilot had constructive notice of the condition.”

Accordingly, the appeals court reversed the lower court’s judgment and remanded the case to the circuit court with instructions that it enter judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of Pilot.

Further details of this case are available in the Law360 article “Truck Stop Wins Appeal Over ‘Bizarre’ Toilet Paper Injury” (subscription required).

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