FF12: Dollar General fixes Pratt sidewalk after repeated falls/injuries

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PRATT, Kan. (KWCH) There are several pictures in Jane Walter's cell phone that are hard to look at.

"I looked like the walking dead," Walters said.

Her face was full of cuts that would turn into large scabs. Her lip was so swollen she couldn't breathe out of that side of her nose. Her nose was so crooked, the paramedic who responded to her tilted his head to make it straight in his vision.

It's those pictures that remind her of what happened at Dollar General in Pratt back in June.

"I was walking one second. The next second I was flat on my face and I honestly thought someone had pushed me," Walters said.

Walters had gone into Dollar General to look for a couple pots for an antique pot holder she just bought earlier that day in Hutchinson. She needed three that matched and she found the perfect ones at the Pratt location. Plus, she was only three blocks from home.

When she carried them outside to her car, she didn't see the hole or cracks in the sidewalk.

"I felt the pain, my nose, something popped. We think maybe it was my cartilage," she said.

A nearby customer called an ambulance and the Dollar General clerk came outside, she said. She said he told her he would help her.

"He said, 'Oh I'm so glad that this happened' and I must have gave him a look because I thought glad this happened? And he said, 'Now we can get the sidewalk fixed' and I said, 'What do you mean by that?' and he said, 'Oh, you're not the first one.' I said, 'Well how many have fallen?' He said, 'Oh, in the last couple of years, eight to ten.'" Walters said.

Some of those people found Walters.

"I've heard from at least 11 that have fallen," Walters said. "They would come to me and tap me on the shoulder and I'd be busy at work and they'd say, 'Hey I fell too, I'm really sorry.' And I'd say, 'You fell?'"

FactFinder 12 spoke with several.

"My foot caught in the crack and down I went. And I put my left arm out to brace it and it didn't but I heard my head pop and I was black and blue all the way down," Pearl said, who also lives in Pratt.

She said she called Dollar General after it happened.

"I said you either pay my bills or send me 500 bucks or I'm suing. Well I got 500 dollars just real fast," she said.

Others posted on Facebook too saying things like, "I tripped and fell on that raised crack about a year ago," and, "I fell there too last summer because of the raised concrete."

Many said Dollar General told them they'd fix the sidewalk and some were promised the company would pay medical bills.

Neither of those things happened for years.

FactFinder 12 contacted Dollar General this week about the sidewalk issue asking when it would be fixed and why it's taken so long. Some people in Pratt say it's been an issue for up to two years.

Then, Thursday, workers appeared outside the Pratt location and what happened was exactly what these people had been asking for, for years. There was a brand new sidewalk being poured.

"I'm just really relieved and thankful that it's fixed in such a quick manner," Walters said when we talked to her Friday. "If it could be done that quickly, it's just frustrating that it took so long to get that accomplished."

But the story isn't over. With dental work, nose injuries including a now deviated septum and lasting headaches, Walters hired Matt Bretz, an attorney out of Hutchinson to help her with her case and to try to get Dollar General to pay her medical bills.

"I was told they would pay. But so far every claim that has been submitted has been denied," Walters said.

"A land owner has an obligation to keep their property reasonably safe," Attorney Matt Bretz said.

He said in this case, the company has been negligent. He said it would be one thing if Walters was the first fall and the company was unaware of the issue. But that clearly isn't the case.

Bretz said while he's pleased the sidewalk has been fixed, it's too little too late and he plans to move forward in trying to get Walters money for bills.

"My experience with them is that they blow us off, they blow off attorneys just like they blow off their customers. And we'll probably end up with a lawsuit," Bretz said.

Dollar General did send a statement after FactFinder 12 asked questions.

The company said in an email, "Dollar General strives to provide a pleasant shopping experience for our customers, both inside and outside our stores. We recently resolved an issue affecting our store in Pratt, Kansas. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused the Pratt community."