Injured Woman Sues Hechinger For $13 Million

April 05, 1992

A 30-year-old Columbia woman is suing Hechinger Co. for $13.35 million, charging that a lumber display at a store collapsed and fell on her, injuring her head, back and neck.

In the suit, filed Thursday in Howard County District Court, Cathy Phillips claims she was injured when a display unit containing about 100 pieces of 6-foot to 12-foot pieces of wood fell on her as she walked in an aisle.

The accident happened at the chain's Dobbin Shopping Center hardware store in Columbia on March 29, 1990, the suit said.

Phillips claims that Hechinger was reckless and negligent in failing to providesafe conditions and warnings of possible danger. The suit also said the company stored lumber in improper and defective display units.

Hechinger declined to comment.

Phillips is seeking $10 million inpunitive damages, $3 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 for loss of consortium with her husband, Robert Phillips.

Phillips' attorney, Bruce M. Plaxen, said his client sustained serious back, head and neck injuries.

"She was just a regular shopper," Plaxen said. "I guess she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"We're very lucky this was not a child," he said.

Since the accident, Phillips has been hospitalized intermittently, has undergone neck surgeryand accumulated at least $100,000 in medical bills, Plaxen said. Shewill need to have back surgery.

Phillips also has suffered from depression as a result of the accident, Plaxen said, and has been unable to return to her $380-a-week job as a commercial painter. Her doctor said she might never be able to return to work, he added.

Plaxen said the suit was filed two years after the incident to allow time to determine the extent of his client's injuries and to try to reach a settlement with the company.

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