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$5.67 million awarded in Maui McDonald's lawsuit

By Nelson Daranciang

LAST UPDATED: 10:58 a.m. HST, Oct 12, 2010

A federal jury has awarded a Texas woman $5.67 million for injuries she suffered when she slipped and fell in a McDonald's restaurant in Kahului.

Beverly Munguia, 59, was a patron of the McDonald's Dairy Road restaurant on Nov. 25, 2007, when she slipped on the floor and fell.

Munguia fell on her buttocks, which caused a burst compression fracture of the L1 vertebra in her lower back, said Michael Cruise, her attorney. He said the vertebra lost 90 percent of its height.

Cruise said Munguia underwent two surgeries, but all they did was stabilize the injury. She is now permanently disabled, suffers chronic pain and is confined to a wheelchair most of the time, he said.

On Wednesday the U.S. District Court jury awarded Munguia $2.67 million in special damages for past and future medical expenses, lost wages and retirement benefits. The jury also awarded her $3 million in general damages for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.

"I am disappointed with the verdict and believe it is excessive and not representative of the facts presented in the case," McDonald's franchisee Grelyn Rosario said in a written statement. Rosario's company, Grelyn of Maui LLC, owns the Dairy Road restaurant and other McDonald's franchises on Maui.

Munguia, who is from San Angelo, Texas, but grew up in Hawaii, was visiting her sister, who lives on Maui. Munguia, her husband, her sister and the daughter of a family friend were sitting at a table waiting for their order when she got up to get drinks for everybody, according to trial records. When she stepped away from the table, she said, her left foot slipped on something on the floor, causing her to fall.

Cruise said something had previously spilled in the area where Munguia slipped.

"The restaurant's overall cleaning practice was not good," he said.

Rosario said his sympathy goes out to Munguia and her family.

He said the safety and well-being of his employees and customers are top priorities that and he remains vigilant in his efforts to provide a safe restaurant.

At the time of her injury, Munguia was a manager for Blue Cross, Cruise said. She tried but was unable to return to work, he said.

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