‘It wasn’t the vending machine’s fault’

Posted on Jun 25 1999

Why blame the cigarette machine?

This was the issue raised by lawyer Eric Smith in seeking the court’s dismissal of a civil lawsuit filed by lawyer Ted Mitchell against Elms, Inc., which sells cigarette machines.

The case arose from an incident on Aug. 9, 1993 at the now-defunct Cafe Magambo in Garapan where an altercation between Mitchell and other customers led to a fight.

Mitchell who was intoxicated then, according to court documents, pushed another lawyer-customer James Grizzard “who lost his balance and fell into a cigarette machine,” causing him head injuries.

In July 1995, Grizzard and his wife Barbara agreed not to sue Mitchell, who as a result was “released from all liability, claims, demands, costs, charges and expenses incidental to he personal injuries.”

Instead, Grizzard sued Cafe Mogambo and Century Insurance, which in turn filed a “third-party complaint” against Mitchell.

Mitchell, on the other hand, pointed to Elms Inc. as the culprit, citing its alleged negligence by placing the cigarette machine in a hazardous spot at Cafe Mogambo.

Representing Elms, Smith filed at the Superior Court early this week a motion seeking the dismissal of Mitchell’s claims.

Smith said Mitchell should not blame Elms nor shift the financial responsibility to the company since he earlier confessed to causing injuries to Grizzard.

Mitchell had confessed that “he alone caused Grizzard’s injuries,” Smith said.

Smith also pointed out that upon delivery of the cigarette machine , Elms placed it in a spot selected by the business establishment’s owner.

“The cigarette machine was placed in a spot in Cafe Mogambo where it would be visible to people for obvious commercial reasons.,” Smith said.

He added that “no other reported incidents ever occurred involving injuries arising from the cigarette machine.”

Smith said Mitchell’s claim for indemnity against Elms was “without merits.”

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