Man's case reveals cars slam into storefronts like 7-Eleven with alarming frequency

"This accident doesn't happen if somebody had spent about $800," co-founder of the Storefront Safety Council said.

ByCharlie De Mar WBBM, CNNWire
Thursday, February 9, 2023
7-Eleven to pay suburban man who lost legs in storefront crash $91M
A 57-year-old suburban man who became a double amputee after a car pinned his legs against the front of a Bensenville 7-Eleven will receive a $91 million payout from the store.

CHICAGO -- A Chicago area man just received a record-breaking settlement from 7-Eleven after losing both his legs in a pin-in crash at a store back in 2017.

The case revealed a disturbing trend - cars slamming into storefronts across the country with alarming regularity.

The man identified as Carl is adjusting to life without his legs. He is now a double amputee.

Surveillance video obtained by CNN affiliate WBBM-TV of the 2017 incident shows Carl waiting outside a Bensenville 7-Eleven, which he was visiting to pick up a coffee - as a driver attempting to park stepped on the gas instead of the brake.

Carl was left pinned between the store building and the car.

The driver later pleaded guilty to aggravated reckless driving.

"This is an avoidable incident if they take the necessary precautions," said attorney Larry Rogers Jr.

Carl, who is now in his mid-50s, asked not to identify him for his own safety after he was just awarded $91 million from 7-Eleven in the largest pretrial recovery for a person injured in Illinois.

WBBM spoke with his attorneys from Power Rogers LLC.

"This is a national problem, that people are dying, people are losing the limbs," said attorney James Power, "so the idea that a corporation would be allowed to keep this from the public just was not something we were going to stand for."

What happened to Carl is far from an isolated incident.

Over a 15-year period, 6,253 cars crashed into 7-Eleven storefronts in the U.S. - an average of 1.14 per day.

7-Eleven apparently fought in court to withhold that data from the public.

"They have not been producing that information for many, many years," Rogers said, "and that's what's important about this case - getting this information out about how frequently this happens."

Rob Reiter is co-founder of the Storefront Safety Council. He was retained as an expert by Carl's attorneys in this case.

"If you install bollards, you pretty much solve that problem," he said of the danger.

Reiter advocates for safety bollards or protective barriers being placed in front of storefronts - especially those with parking lots that face the front door.

Reiter argues such bollards would have saved Carl's legs.

"This accident doesn't happen if somebody had spent about $800," he said.

Data collected by Reiter shows such accidents happen more than 100 times a day at storefronts in the U.S. - with 16,000 injured each year and 2,600 killed.

"The fight is retrofitting stores so that if your new stores are to a certain standard, retro-fit your other stores to a similar standard," Reiter said.

7-Eleven released a statement that read in part: "We are heartbroken by this tragedy.... It is important to note that this unfortunate accident was caused by a reckless driver who pled guilty, and this store followed all local building codes and ordinances."

"The hope is that they'll take the steps necessary to protect people so things like what occurred in this case never happen again," Power said.

The judge in this case said 7-Eleven had a duty to install those protective bollards in front of the Bensenville store.

WBBM asked 7-Eleven a number of specific questions, including whether or not bollards are required at their new stores, and if there are plans to install them at existing locations. WBBM did not get answers to those questions.

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