Costco customer struck by vehicle in outdoor food court. $2 million verdict plus $590K settlement. Los Angeles County.


A Costco customer sitting at an outdoor dining table is struck by an out-of-control motorist.  Plaintiff claims barriers were insufficient to protect patrons from parking lot traffic.

The Case

  • Case Name: Ruben Soto, Brunilda Soto, and Anabel Soto v. Costco Wholesale Corporation and Robert Alan Livingston
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court, North Central District / EC048420
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, August 17, 2010
  • Date Action was Filed: Tuesday, October 28, 2008
  • Type of Case: Premises Liability
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. William D. Stewart
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $2,000,000
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    $2 million verdict against Costco and $590,000 settlement with Livingston.

  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: 75% against Livingston and 25% against Costco
  • Economic Damages:

    Past loss of earnings: $136,838

    Future loss of earnings: $500,000

    Past loss of household services: $29,397

    Future loss of household services: $9,800

    Past medical expenses: $384,841

    Future medical expenses: $699,633

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past non-economic damages: $136,838 

    Future non-economic damages: $30,000

    The jury awarded plaintiffs Anabel and Brunilda $30,000 each.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:
    The Homampour Law Firm by Arash Homampour, Sherman Oaks.
    Law Offices of Thomas C. Zaret by Thomas C. Zaret, Santa Monica.
  • Attorney for the Defendant:
    Baraban & Teske by Jeffrey H. Baraban, Pasadena (for Costco).
    Demler Armstrong & Rowland by Robert W. Armstrong, Long Beach (for Robert Alan Livingston).

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Experts:
    Stephen Kay, M.D., orthopedic, Los Angeles.
    Bennett Williamson, Ph.D., psychology, Los Angeles.
  • Defendant's Medical Experts:
    Boyd W. Flinders, II, M.D., orthopedic, Burbank.
    James R. High, M.D., psychiatry and neurology, Santa Monica.
  • Plaintiff's Technical Experts:
    Lawrence Miller, M.D., life expectancy, Santa Monica.
    David J. King, P.E., accident reconstruction, Laguna HIlls.
    Brad Avrit, P.E., hazardous conditions, Marina del Rey.
    Robert Reiter, bollard safety, Claremont.
  • Defendant's Technical Experts:
    Robert F. Douglas, P.E., accident reconstruction, Long Beach.
    Thomas F. Fugger, Jr., P.E., traffic accident reconstruction, Valencia.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    The incident occurred on April 17, 2007 at approximately 11:15 a.m. at the Costco store located in Burbank, California.  Plaintiffs Ruben Soto, his wife Anabel Soto and their 20-year old daughter Anabel Soto were seated and having lunch at one of the outdoor tables at the Costco food court. 

    As plaintiffs were having lunch, Defendant Livingston entered his vehicle which was parked adjacent to the food court dining area.  Defendant Livingston put his car in reverse, lost control, and plowed into the food court dining area directly behind him. Ruben suffered serious injuries as a result of the collision.  Investigation of the surrounding areas revealed that the food court was in close proximity to the parking lot and lacked protective barriers.  Shortly after the incident, Costco installed crash barriers around the perimeter of the food court area.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That the incident was highly foreseeable and the cost for installing the crash barriers around the perimeter of the food court was minimal. Defendant Costco had placed every patron within their food court at a high risk for injury as there was a high volume of traffic in the adjacent parking lot.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendant Costco contended that millions of customers had been to this Costco and there were no prior similar incidents at any Costco anywhere in the world. It contended that the lack of barriers was not a dangerous condition/hazard.  Defendant Costco further contended that the sole cause of the incident was Defendant Livingston’s negligent operation of his vehicle, in that he was impaired on prescription medication.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Ruben Soto suffered serious injuries, including multiple complex lacerations and fractures to his face requiring extensive facial surgery, a fractured pelvis requiring open reduction and internal fixation.

  • Anabel and Brunilda had negligent infliction of emotional distress claims (Dillon v. Legg).

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $384,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: Disputed.
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $136,138
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: Disputed.