Fall From Grace

By Alex Distefano

Posted June 16, 2011 in News

We’ve seen it a million times during Saturday morning cartoons, on Tom & Jerry or Looney Tunes. It was either Sylvester the Cat, Elmer Fudd or Wile E. Coyote (among other characters) who would end up slipping on a banana peel in a disastrous, comedic scene.

But what about when it happens in real life? Or at least allegedly happens.

That’s what Ida Valentine, 58, is claiming happened at a 99 Cents Only store in Fontana. And—through her attorney—she maintains it’s no laughing matter.

In April 2010, Valentine alleges to have slipped on the fruit’s peel while shopping at the retail discount chain store. The woman is suing 99 Cents Only.

“She fell and landed on her backside,” Courtney Mikolaj, a Ventura-based legal assistant for the firm representing Valentine, told Reuters Legal.

An attorney from the same firm, Quirk Law Firm, told the Weekly, “Ms. Valentine sustained herniated discs at the L4-5 and L5-S1 levels resulting in epidural injections,” says Aletheia S. Gooden.

“She may require surgery depending on her response to her care,” she adds.

Allegedly, Valentine’s medical bills totaled about $9,000.

Exactly how much money Valentine is seeking in damages has not been made public.

“Personal injury claimants do not generally specify the amount they are seeking in their complaint filed with the Court,” Gooden says.

But a recent—rejected—settlement offer might offer a clue. Purportedly, 99 Cents Only executives refused to settle for $44,000 earlier this year, according to published news reports.

The company has stated that 99 Cents Only was not responsible for Valentine’s injuries and is willing to fight the case in court to the very end. Perhaps some good luck is in order as Valentine’s case is strong, according to Gooden.

“If we did not think it was the store’s fault, we would not have sued them,” she told the Weekly. “The evidence will show the banana peel was on the floor for an unreasonable length of time and the store knew or should have known it was there.”

Executives and spokespeople for 99 Cents Only store did not respond to interview requests for this story.

For critics who might suspect Valentine’s lawsuit is frivolous or that the purported slip-and-fall incident was a joke, Gooden insists that isn’t the case. The attorney says sees these types of incidents as serious matters that can occur to anyone.

In this case, Gooden says 99 Cents Only should own up to its responsibility. “A store is responsible for a customer’s injuries resulting from a slip and fall if the store knew or should have known of the dangerous condition prior to the fall.”


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