On December 1, 2016, a Ford F-150 truck driven by Dennis Mockenhaupt plowed through the entrance area of a Wal-Mart in Pella, Iowa at 48 miles per hour. The entrance to the store spanned about 25 feet and was surrounded by a set of five decorative bollards set eight to 10 feet in front of it. The bollards were made of an inner bollard about six inches in diameter, encased in a very thin steel wall, and filled with concrete covered with decorative cast iron. Mockenhaupt alleges that, at the time of the accident, he had lost consciousness because he was choking on coffee.
Although Mockenhaupt hit one of these bollards, it shattered instantly upon impact, allowing his truck to careen through the entrance of the store.
The accident claimed three lives–Lindsey Rietveld (whose family are the plaintiffs in the instant case), employee Carrie Zugg, and shopper Robert DeJong. When the truck crashed through the entrance, it hit Rietveld and Zugg first, then struck DeJong. Rietveld was thrown about 15 feet into the store when she was struck by the truck, where she became pinned between the truck and a large freezer. According to her family’s lawsuit, Rietveld’s official cause of death was “multiple blunt force injuries, that included multiple hemorrhages of the head and neck, fractured pelvis, ribs, T2 vertebrae, both legs, and lacerations to her liver, lungs, and aorta.”
Because he was unconscious at the the time of the accident, Mockenhaupt has been cleared of criminal charges. However, Rietveld’s representatives have brought a civil lawsuit against Mockenhaupt, Walmart, and several consulting firms that were responsible for drafting the site plan for Wal-Mart.
The lawsuit alleges that, “to protect people and property, the standard for retail operators is to design and construct parking lot drive aisles so that out-of-control and/or intentionally driven vehicles cannot proceed directly for any significant distance and thus cannot develop high rates of speed.”
Legally, all landowners, including Wal-Mart, owe a duty to visitors on their land to keep them safe from an unreasonable risk of harm or injury. In this case, the resolution of the seem like a freak occurrence, the prevalence of these types of incidents has become alarmingly common, especially in light of recent vehicular attacks in New York City, London, and elsewhere. With these types of incidents on the rise around the world, the lawsuit will turn on the question of whether Wal-Mart took reasonable steps to keep its customers safe from accidents of this nature. While a vehicle crashing into a store may time may have come for the law to insist that property owners protect their visitors from them.
Contact an Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney
If you have been injured on someone else’s property, you may be able to seek compensation from the landowner. Contact the attorneys at Slappey & Sadd for a free consultation to discuss your case by calling 404.255.6677. We serve the entire state of Georgia, including the following locations: Covington, Fort Benning, and Lagrange.