Dimitrios Magriplis, et al v. Restaurant Depot LLC; RD America LLC, et al.: A soccer player from Greece who moved to Connecticut and was injured when a 200-pound pallet fell on his head at a Restaurant Depot warehouse store has settled his lawsuit for $1.18 million.
On Nov. 3, 2011, at around 11 a.m., Dimitrios Magriplis was walking down a store aisle at Restaurant Depot in Orange. Magriplis was there with a co-worker to buy supplies for Cheshire Pizza, which his mother and father-in-law owned. At the same time, a store employee was using a forklift to place a pallet of merchandise on the shelves of an adjacent aisle.
According to Magriplis’ lawsuit, a box of brooms had been left on the top shelf in an awkward position. When the forklift lifted a pallet to place on the shelf, it pushed the brooms into a second pallet, which fell 20 feet, struck Magriplis on the head and knocked him unconscious.
Magriplis’ lawyer, Patrick Kennedy, of RisCassi & Davis in Hartford, said his client also sustained a fractured ankle in the incident. “All I can remember is just waking up and being in extreme agonizing pain not knowing what had happened to me,” said Magriplis on a video that was presented at a recent mediation in the case.
Magriplis was taken by an ambulance to Yale-New Haven Hospital where he was diagnosed with a concussion, the ankle fracture, neck sprain, and a number of other cuts and bruises. He was later diagnosed with post-concussive syndrome, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, dizziness, short-term memory loss and other minor cognitive impairments.
Kennedy explained that Magriplis needed two surgeries on his broken ankle. The first procedure placed hardware in his ankle to hold bone in place. During the second operation, doctors removed the hardware and also performed microfracture surgery, a procedure which places tiny fractures in the bone to develop new cartilage growth. The microfracture procedure is often used these days to treat knee injuries of professional athletes.
“He had been a very active soccer player,” said Kennedy. “He was only in the [United] States for a matter of months before this all happened. He planned to continue soccer here with his kids and this impacted that.”
Kennedy filed a negligence and recklessness lawsuit against Restaurant Depot, which has warehouse-type stores in 27 states that sell bulk food and supplies to restaurant owners. The complaint also included a loss of consortium claim for Magriplis’ wife, Rigopoula Halkias.
Restaurant Depot was defended by Timothy Scannell, of Boyle, Shaughnessy & Campo’s Hartford office. Scannell did not respond to an interview request.
Kennedy said the defense did not dispute the extent of his client’s ankle injury, but it did question the seriousness of the head injury. “Their argument was that the head injury and complaint regarding his concussion and anxiety were not real,” said Kennedy.
As for the incident that caused Magriplis’ injuries, Kennedy said an Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation led to a $27,500 fine being levied against Restaurant Depot. In 2009, the company had been fined by OSHA for a similar incident. In fact, two other Restaurant Depot customers — one in New Jersey and another in Pennsylvania — had been hurt by falling pallets. Further, Kennedy said, the company experienced two similar accidents after Magriplis was hurt.
Kennedy hired an expert witness who described the proper procedure for pallet loading in stores with similar floor plans, such as Walmart and Home Depot. The expert said Restaurant Depot’s loading methods were in violation of industry standards.
“[The other stores] block off two aisles and make sure no customers are in the area because things like this can happen,” said Kennedy.
The case recently went to mediation before retired Superior Court Judge Robert Holzberg, who now has an alternative dispute resolution practice at Pullman & Comley. The case did not settle at mediation but did so a short time later, with Holzberg continuing to follow-up with both sides on the phone.
“[Restaurant Depot] never admitted liability, but I think they knew it was a case of aggravated liability if not reckless conduct,” said Kennedy. “They didn’t change how they did things. They didn’t change anything. That really, in my opinion, pumped up the value of the case.”
The two sides ultimately agreed to settle for $1,180,000 earlier this month. Kennedy said both sides had reasons to resolve the case rather than go to trial.
“I think there was a recognition on the defendants part that this was a potentially explosive situation with liability,” said Kennedy. “On my client’s part there is a recognition that trials are a risk and you never know what’s going to happen. Money in the bank is better than risking it.”
Kennedy said the settlement did not include any promise of procedural changes on Restaurant Depot’s part, but he hopes the company will consider them at some point. “If they didn’t learn the first two times, I don’t know what it will take for them to learn it,” said Kennedy. “I would hope they learned their lesson or otherwise more people are going to get hurt.”•