It does not appear that the Court’s private conference yesterday led to any new briefs-on-the-merits requests. But, last Friday, the Court did request full briefing in the merits in Brookshire Grocery Co. v. Goss, No. 07-0085. (Docket Sheet).
Through that mandamus, Brookshire sought to have the trial court’s award of damages vacated in its entirety and the case returned for a new trial, consistent with the trial court’s untimely order to that effect. The Court denied that requested mandamus relief last Friday. By requesting full briefing on this parallel appeal, the Court has given Brookshire an opportunity to present its additional complaints about the merits of that trial court’s judgment.
The case deals with the tort duty owed by a grocery store to its employee who was injured on the job by tripping over a cart loaded with frozen Thanksgiving turkeys, for which she was eventually awarded substantial damages:
Goss began working at Brookshire Grocery Company in Quitman in 1999. She worked for a while in the Mineola store, but had returned to the Quitman store and, in November 2002, was working in the deli section of the store. Shortly before Thanksgiving 2002, Brookshire’s employees had been taking orders for frozen turkey dinners for customers. To keep them at the proper temperature, the employees stacked the dinners on a lowboy cart and placed the cart in the deli cooler while the market freezer was being rearranged.
A lowboy cart is used to move inventory and stands about ten inches off the ground. It is approximately five feet long, and about two-and-one-half feet wide. A lowboy cart has a handle on one end and can only be maneuvered using this handle. This lowboy was loaded with Thanksgiving foods which were boxed and stacked three to four boxes high, leaving less room in the cooler for employees to move around. Goss had to go into the cooler to get some frozen potato logs to cook and put in the deli. There were also other carts–regular shopping buggies–in the cooler at the time.
Goss admitted she noticed the lowboy cart when she entered the cooler November 23, 2002. She stepped over the corner of the lowboy to get over to the area where the potato logs were located. On obtaining the necessary items, she turned around, hit her shin on the lowboy, reached around to grab a shelf to keep from falling, and “pulled [her] back.” In her petition, she explained similarly that she tripped over the lowboy and then “twist[ed] as she fell, injuring her knee and back.”
Goss immediately went to the hospital. She filled out an accident report two days later, listing the “cart in cooler” as the cause of her injury. Her supervisor also filled out a report in connection with the accident, stating that “Barbara turned around and fell over the blue stock cart.”
More details can be found in the court of appeals’s opinion. The case also involves questions of causation and damages, as well as an alleged charge error involving the submission of both a premises liability and negligence claim when both were not supported by the trial record.
Kroger has weighed in by filing an amicus curiae brief at the petition stage.
Once the merits briefing is complete later this spring, the Court will decide whether to deny review, to set the case for argument, or to hold the case for possible summary disposition.