CRYSTAL LAKE – Former Cary Deputy Police Chief Ed Fetzer and his wife Mary are suing Wal-Mart Stores Inc. after Mary Fetzer slipped on a slick surface at the Crystal Lake location last year and suffered permanent brain damage.
Reasons for Fetzer's departure from the Cary Police Department in November were unknown at the time, but the Fetzers' lawyer John Galarnyk said Ed Fetzer had to take an early retirement to care for his wife full-time because of the severity of the injuries.
Mary Fetzer suffered the injuries on March 5, 2013 during a trip to the Wal-Mart on Route 31. According to the complaint filed to the court, she was walking down an aisle away from the pharmacy window after picking up a prescription when she slipped on water dripping from a leaking skylight and fractured her skull.
Galarnyk said no warning signage was displayed and precautions were not taken by the store to warn customers of the slick surface and faulty skylight.
"The store had so many of these kinds of leaking areas where water was dripping on floor and making it slippery," Galarnyk said. "When we asked employees they said it has been leaking forever. You'll see orange cones in areas now but that's it. We want to make people aware of what is going on at the store."
Galarnyk said customers and employees should also be vigilant and aware of leaks at other locations because Crystal Lake is not the only location with the issues.
Since the injury, Galarnyk said Mary Fetzer has dealt with speech impediments, vision loss, balance loss, personality disorders and other challenges. She can no longer work or drive and just returned Wednesday from six weeks of intense therapy at a Veterans Affairs Hospital in Minnesota.
Doctors told Mary Fetzer's family she was unlikely to survive through the night on the evening of the fall and she said doctors still tell her she is lucky to be alive when they see the damage that occurred. She has successfully rehabilitated some functions, but said it would be a lifelong struggle.
"I put my hope, number one, in God," she said. "A brain injury this bad is forever. ... I just need to keep picking myself back up."
The lawsuit was filed at the end of December and Galarnyk said there was a delay in announcing it until the location of the proceedings was determined. He said Wal-Mart requested the case be heard in Rockford, but it was denied and will continue in the northern district in downtown Chicago.
Galarnyk said there would be a scheduling order at the end of the month that would lay out the rest of the dates through the completion of pretrial proceedings. He is hopeful for the trial to start early next year.
While the complaint asks the court for an award in excess of the $75,000 jurisdictional limit, Galarnyk said the damages far exceed that amount and the potential decision could reach the millions.
Ed Fetzer, who said he is getting used to his new routine of caring for his 11- and 12-year-old daughters, wife and household tasks, said the lawsuit was a key to the family's financial future but it would only restore so much.
"It's pretty much our future in that will help us financially catch up and get us over those hurdles," Ed Fetzer said. "But there is no getting what [Mary] is entitled to in her lifestyle."