April 10, 2004 | The Greenfield Recorder
By Anita Fritz
SOUTH DEERFIELD - Deerfield's building inspector has ordered Cumberland Farms to place a permanent barrier to keep cars from crashing into the convenience store.
The move, which followed such an accident Tuesday, was actually suggested about a week earlier by the lawyer of a man who in 2001 was shoved through the store's plate glass window by a car.
"It's so lucky no one was hurt this time," said Paul Weinberg, the lawyer for Roger Storozuk Jr., 52, of River Road, who was sent through the plate glass window almost three years ago, losing his left leg and needing repairs to his right leg.
Weinberg said to prepare for a suit against Cumberland Farms, he hired an expert traffic engineer to draw up plans for a safer design of the storefront, which included installing a number of bollards, concrete-filled steel posts. At present, cars pull up to the store entrance, separated by a slightly raised concrete walk.
The suit was settled with the chain for an undisclosed amount in January. Weinberg declined to reveal details because both parties had agreed to confidentiality. He sent letters with the design plans in early and mid-March to the chain. He met with Brien Laporte, Deerfield's building commissioner, on March 25 to talk about the same plans and encourage him to talk with Cumberland officials about making safety improvements.
"I thought the building inspector did what he could," said Weinberg. "It's my understanding he had already talked with store officials before I met with him."
Weinberg said he did an investigation before the trial and found these types of accidents have happened frequently on the East Coast at Cumberland Farms stores. "We identified a number of stores where three or more of these incidents have happened," he said.
Cumberland Farms officials were unavailable for confirmation or comment Thursday or Friday.
After the accident Tuesday morning, when Leslie Thomas, 85, of Main Street, drove his Chevrolet sedan into the store's front window, knocking a fire extinguisher into the sales clerk's leg, Laporte called the chain's officials demanding they install 18 bollards across the front of the store.
"I expect to give the store a permit next week, then construction of the bollards will begin," said Laporte. He said the bollards will be placed 4 feet from the front of the store, 5 feet apart and sunk into the ground 3 feet.
"I'd just talked to Cumberland Farms recently about making the front of the store safer," said Laporte. Weinberg and Laporte said the chain had stated it was analyzing its options for making the convenience store safer for its patrons and employees.
"When I heard about the accident Tuesday, I hurried to the store and let the company's officials know that that was it, it was the last straw for me. I told them, 'now put (the bollards) up.'" He said he told officials he would close the store if they didn't install the bollards.
No one was hurt when Thomas drove his car into the front of the store Tuesday, but damage to the wall covered a 10-foot area, forcing the bricks of the facade about a foot into the building.
Weinberg said Storozuk, "was very happy" with the settlement of his lawsuit. He said the settlement was reached two days into a civil trial in Hampshire Superior Court earlier this year. Storozuk was struck by a Ford Ranger after paying for gas and walking along the sidewalk in front of the store. In May 1999, a Deerfield man struck the same store, forcing the store to close for repairs.