Hinton v. Costco (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Can a broken wrist break up a marriage? It can according to Brandon and Rachelle Hinton.
The couple's divorce will be finalized later this summer, but they're sticking with each other as co-plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Costco Wholesale Corporation that went to trial this week in Clark County Circuit Court.
Brandon Hinton suffered a broken wrist in a Costco parking lot in 2007, after a Costco employee lost control of a number of shopping carts, and they rolled towards Hinton's car. From the driver's seat, Hinton reached out to block the carts with his hand, which caused a wrist injury resulting in multiple surgeries, enduring physical pain, and, according to the Hintons' attorney, led to the end of their marriage of 13 years.
"There was too big a change," attorney Jim Crockett (Crockett & Myers) told the jury during opening statements. Between depression from a debilitating wrist injury and the required, long-time use of narcotic pain medication, Rachelle claims her husband went from being a happy-go-lucky, active "9.8 out of 10" stay-at-home dad to a "grouch" who hardly helps out around the house or with their six-year old child. She seeks damages for loss of consortium, while Brandon seeks damages for medical expenses and loss of future wages.
According to Hinton's lawsuit, on the day of the accident a Costco employee was moving shopping carts with a "QuicKart" personal moving device that he had not received sufficient training to operate. "When a company uses specialized commercial machinery, the company must make sure that only employees who have been authorized and properly trained to use it, use it. If they don't, and someone is harmed, the company is responsible for the harm caused," Crockett told the jury.
Representing Costco, attorney Sharon Nelson (The Nelson Law Firm) told the jury that although the employee admitted making an error in operating the QuicKart, he had been properly trained, and that Costco responded appropriately following the incident. The Hintons refused an ambulance, and, Nelson said, the evidence will show at the time Mr. Hinton was driving under the influence of prescription medication. Nelson told the jury Costco is not responsible for the subsequent standard of care Mr. Hinton received in treating his injury, nor is it responsible for the strength of the Hinton's marriage. "This case is about choices," said Nelson.
Nelson also suggested to the jury that Hinton had a history of filing lawsuits like this. "The evidence will show this is not the first time Mr. Hinton has sued or claimed disability for an injury," she said. According to Nelson, Mr. Hinton had effectively stopped looking for any full time employment months before the incident in the Costco parking lot.