From the Palm Beach Post-
WEST PALM BEACH — As the son of a Baptist minister, 15-year-old Austin Gardner believes everything happens for a reason.My condolences to the Gardner family. I however agree with the jury.
So when a Palm Beach County jury on Wednesday agreed that Costco Wholesale was not responsible for a traffic accident that claimed the life of his father, the suburban Boynton Beach teen was stoic.
"I told my God before the verdict that whatever it is I'll still praise you," he said minutes after the jury's decision was announced.
Just as his 36-year-old father was taken from him, his mother and two siblings in the 2000 crash in front of Costco's Lantana Road store, the jury verdict is simply another part of God's plan, he said.
"Whatever happens was meant to be," Austin said. "We just have to move on. We just have to keep on coping with life without my father."
The jury verdict meant that instead of as much as the $8 million their attorney requested, the family will get nothing from the retail giant.
Attorney William Johnson, who represented the Gardners, said he was stunned by the jury's decision that came at the conclusion of a four-week trial.
While acknowledging that Ron Gardner and others also were responsible for the accident, he said Costco ignored repeated warnings that its Lantana Road exit was dangerous. "I think they were looking at Ron Gardner who pulled out in front of a dump truck and not looking at what could have been done to keep him from going into a dangerous area," Johnson said.
Had Costco executives heeded advice from Palm Beach County traffic engineers and directed customers to an exit off High Ridge Road, Gardner would be alive today, Johnson told jurors during closing arguments.
"You would think a corporation would have some regard for the safety of its customers," he said.
Jury foreman Michael Kajano said after 10 hours of deliberation over two days, the two women and four men simply couldn't find the evidence to support the Gardner family's claims.
"We reviewed all the evidence, all the testimony. We reviewed it and re-reviewed it and weighed it all again," the Wellington engineer said. "Everyone on the jury offers their condolences to the entire Gardner family. It was a tremendous loss."
The Costco store in question is two miles from my home, and is passed every day of the week by either my wife or I on multiple occasions.(It's on the way to her work, which is also our place of worship). The warehouse store first opened in 1991, and when it did people could exit the store onto Lantana Road either to go east or west bound. To go East bound one had to turn left across a four lane road(which just narrowed from 6 lanes for traffic coming east) and was at the bottom of the bridge that crosses I-95.
As someone who drove by here, I always thought making the left turn out of the store to be an act of suicidal stupidity. High Ridge road, which has a traffic light is adjacent to the store and obvious to anyone who visits the store. Still people tried making the turn, and at least two people died as a result, one of who was Rev. Gardner.
Note- I'm fully aware about why the store's exits were designed as they were when Costco opened.
Bottom line- The store isn't at fault for Mr. Gardner's death. He made the poor choice of trying to make a dangerous turn on a busy highway.
Linked to- Bright & Early, Bullwinkle,