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Gas stations with convenience stores are useful places to fuel up with gas (and coffee) on the way to work, but their layouts can be treacherous. In some cases, they are designed in such a way that cars can enter without significantly slowing down and there are not always guardrails or barriers in place to protect customers at the fuel pumps or those entering the store. Recently, a Massachusetts court held that if you or a family member are hit by a car in such a situation, the business may be liable for your injuries.

In 2010, Kimmy Dubuque, a married mother of a teenage girl, was struck and killed by an out-of-control SUV as she was shopping in a Cumberland Farms convenience store. The SUV was driven by an elderly man who suffered a stroke. It careened into the parking lot through its “apex” entrance and crashed through the store’s façade colliding with Ms. Dubuque. The “apex” entrance was designed such that vehicles could enter straight-on at full speed from the road without making a turn.

Cumberland Farms claimed this was a freak occurrence against which it could not possibly protect its customers; however, Dubuque’s husband and his legal team were able to provide evidence that (1) the company knew of almost 500 similar strikes over the previous 10 years that caused injury or property damage; (2) the company’s own risk manager previously urged that Cumberland Farms install protective barriers between the parking lot and the store at all locations to protect against such risks; and (3) authorities had previously requested that Cumberland Farms close the “apex” entrance at this particular location due to the danger posed to customers but the chain delayed in doing so in light of a future road project.

A jury determined that Cumberland Farms could be held responsible for Dubuque’s death and awarded a substantial judgment, which was upheld on appeal in 2018. While circumstances differ from case to case, if you or a loved one is injured in a pedestrian/motor vehicle collision, you should contact a lawyer to discuss your options.