Bo Jon’s Surf & Gifts: Beware

Sunday, April 20, 2008

This past weekend, the family was down in Port Aransas for Sandfest. As we were leaving town, we decided to stop by Bo Jon’s Surf & Gifts, a big gift shop near one of the central intersections with an entrance made up to look like a shark’s mouth, about 2:00pm. While we were there, Kathy decided to visit the restroom. As she was coming out of the restroom, a large stepladder which had been left propped against the wall fell over and struck Kathy on the head.

I saw the ladder falling, but wasn’t close enough to catch it before it hit her. Kathy immediately sat down on the floor, stunned and hurt. I put the ladder back upright, making sure it was propped far enough from the wall that it wouldn’t fall again. I told the workers at the front desk that the ladder had fallen and struck my wife, and asked for ice. They poured some ice from a drink into a ziploc bag and gave it to us, and Kathy applied it to her head.

One of the counter workers, who turned out to be the owner’s daughter, then called the owner. She then came back over to where Kathy was still sitting on the floor with her head in her hands and, instead of asking after Kathy’s welfare or offering to help, asked us to start filling out an incident report. I grew angry at her, at which point she offered to put the owner (who later identified herself as Christie Maxwell) on the phone. Once on the phone, Ms. Maxwell was immediately hostile, and told me that I was out of line to want to speak with her about the situation. She told me that they always kept the ladder there, and that they had never had an accident before. She eventually agreed to give me the name of the person who handled their insurance, and I told her I would complete the incident report, which I then did.

Kathy was finally feeling well enough to stand up, so we took her out to the car and headed for a medical center that our friend Will had gotten directions to from the store staff. Unfortunately, the directions turned out to be unfollowable, so we ended up asking at convenience stores until we finally found out where the nearest hospital was — about 30 miles from the gift store. We made it there and checked Kathy, who was still in pain, disoriented, and nauseated, in to the Emergency Room.

With the kids all stationed out in the waiting room with our friends Will and April, we ended up staying there for about three hours. The doctor was concerned because of the nausea, and ordered a CAT scan for Kathy. Fortunately, the physical examination and the CAT scans all eventually came back OK, and the doctor discharged us with instructions not to leave Kathy alone for the next 24-48 hours and to wake her periodically during the night to be sure she was still lucid. We lit off for home, finally arriving back in San Marcos around 10:00pm.

Monday, April 21, 2008

8:30am: Called the subrogation department of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Texas, our health insurance company. They were attentive, polite and helpful, and opened a file on the incident.

8:45am: Called Kathy Estep, the individual who the owner had said was handling their insurance. She was initially cordial, asking after Kathy’s welfare and telling me that she had the form and was filing it with their insurance company. I asked the name of the insurance company, figuring that, like with a car accident, exchanging insurance information was a reasonable thing to do. She said that their procedure was to let the insurance company contact me. I asked again, and she rebuffed me again. “So, to be clear, you’re refusing to give me the name of your insurance company?” I asked. “I’m not refusing anything,” she said, launched into a long verbal tirade during which she wouldn’t allow me to speak and concluded by hanging up on me.

8:53am: Called the City of Port Aransas Building Inspection Department to let them know what had happened and ask if they would mind dropping by and making sure the ladder had been moved someplace safer. The secretary seemed nonplused, but offered to take my number and to call back if she had any further questions.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Our Kathy is nearly back to normal, though she’s still having some headaches, which the Emergency Room doctor told her to expect for a few days.

In spite of Kathy Estep’s assurances, we have heard nothing from the shop’s insurance company. I’ve also heard nothing back from the city’s building inspector.

UPDATE: Monday, April 28, 2008

We still haven’t heard anything from Bo Jon’s insurance company. I called Blue Cross this morning to see if they had, but only ended up mired in their voice mail system. I also sent an email to Joe Lamb, the building inspector in Port Aransas, to ask if his department had an opportunity to check on the safety of the gift shop yet. Waiting on responses from all quarters.

UPDATE: August 2008

Blue Cross eventually must have reached them, because we got a letter from Columbia Insurance Group — the mystery insurance company revealed! — saying that they had been trying to contact us, but had been unsuccessful. (Presumably their efforts were carrier-pigeon based, as we never received any phone messages.) I sent them an email asking what information they needed. Rather than answering that question, they asked for a phone number where we could be reached. I sent them one, then sent them a follow-up email a week later when I heard nothing, then another follow up another week later.

UPDATE: September 5, 2008

I finally got a call from the Insurance company two weeks after sending them my number. Unfortunately, I missed it, and they only left a voice mail with their phone number (which, of course, I already had). I called them back again and got voice mail on their end. Sigh.

UPDATE: December 8, 2008

We’ve been in touch with the insurance company several times, given statements, provided documentation of the hospital visit, and finally got an offer to cover the hospital costs plus a small pain and suffering allowance. (We hadn’t asked for the latter, but it was nice of them to offer it.) We accepted the offer, and have been waiting for several weeks now. We still haven’t received the reimbursement check, but it seems that we’re finally getting close to the end of this.

Interestingly, some friends of the shop’s owner have apparently found this page. We have received several profane comments containing assertions that we never went to the hospital, ad hominem attacks against Kathy and me, and other unpleasantness. (I’ve not posted them, for obvious reasons.)

UPDATE: March 2009

We finally received our settlement check, and were able to reimburse our own insurance company for their costs. (They definitely benefited from the settlement more than we did!) I’m very glad to finally have this done, even though it took nearly a year to sort through it.


I have been deeply disappointed by the response of the shop’s employees, owners, and insurance representative. Their concern at every turn has seemed to be more with protecting themselves than with making their shop safe or helping people hurt because they failed to do so. I understand for the first time in my life the temptation to hire a slimy personal injury lawyer and to try to get something out of a miserable situation like this. (We haven’t succumbed, however.)

Will and April were a tremendous help during this time. Thanks a bunch, you guys.

I will keep updating this post as events warrant. In the meantime, I recommend steering well clear of Bo Jon’s whenever you’re in Port Aransas. We will certainly be doing so from now on.