Emma Rowland is $42,500 richer because of one lemon and a slippery string bean.
The Great String Bean Caper, as the lawyers refer to it, began one Saturday night in April 1976 when Rowland left work to buy groceries at a Giant Supermarket in the Prince George's community of Coral Hills.
"I had taken my cart to the cashier when I realized I'd forgotten that lemon, so I walked back toward the produce section and down I went, hit the floor, my feet went out from under me," Rowland recalled. "I didn't even make it to the lemons."
The next thing Rowland remembers, two men pulled her to her feet and pointed to a squashed, dirty string bean on the floor where she slipped.
"It was all mashed up. My heal skidded on it and I fell back," Rowland said. "I was in pain and the two men took me to the dog food section and set me down on the dog food to recover."
Rowland said, however, that she never has really recovered and the incident left her with back troubles, a broken coccyx and a broken arm. "I went to a good bone specialist," she said, "but I still have pain."
A Prince George's ycounty Circuit jury last week decided to ease Rowland's pain by awarding her $42,500. The amount was reaffirmed yesterday when the judge who heard the case rejected a challenge to the award by Giant's lawyers.
According to Rowland's lawyer, Robert Liotta, Giant relly fouled it up. For some reason they were not using the safety features [like barricades in front of the beans] that were available to them."
Grapes as well as strig beans always need to be barricaded Liotta said. "If you pull out all the slip-and-fall cases, they very commonly involve either grapes or string bean," the lawyer noted "Bananas are not very commonly the offending fruit, "because you have to peel them first."
Giant's lawyer, Dwight Murray, said "some of the protective devices were in use and some were not. You can't keep produce off the floor. Customers wade through it."
Rowland said she still goes to the Giant suprmarket and on occasion even heads toward the lemon rack. But the memory of that one slippery string bean still haunts her. "I can't even rest flat on my back at night or sit in the tub," said the 52-year-old Southeast Washington woman. "I miss that, of course I do."