A North Carolina woman whose 71-year-old mother was killed while working as a greeter when she was knocked to the ground by another employee pursuing a fleeing shoplifter is not entitled to damages for the victim's fatal injury, according to a recent ruling from the North Carolina Court of Appeals. The court upheld the decision of a lower court, which found that neither the other employee nor Walmart Stores were liable for the victim's death.
The victim's daughter sued Walmart for wrongful death after her mother sustained a fatal head injury when she was knocked to the ground by a loss prevention associate and a shoplifting suspect, both of whom were also named as defendants. According to the lawsuit, the associate began chasing the suspect, eventually pursuing the man in a full sprint. Near the entrance of the store, the associate and suspect slammed into the greeter, causing her to fall and severely injure her head. The suspect was accused of attempting to shoplift a package of light bulbs.
The lawsuit argues that the loss prevention associate exhibited "willful and wanton conduct" by chasing the suspect at such a high speed and argues that he broke multiple store policies in doing so. Both courts have agreed that the associate and Walmart are both immune from liability, saying they did not knowingly engage in reckless or negligent behavior that put any employees or customers at risk for death or injury. However, the plaintiff has been allowed to continue pursuing litigation against the shoplifting suspect.
Following the appeals court's ruling, Walmart issued an announcement regarding the case. A company representative said that while Walmart wished to extend sympathy to the victim's family, it believes that both courts "correctly interpreted the law." The representative stressed that Walmart's "top priority" is the safety of its customers and employees.
The plaintiff's attorney said he plans to appeal the recent ruling to the North Carolina Supreme Court.
Source: Wilson Times, "Walmart wins wrongful death appeal," Corey Friedman, Feb. 7, 2013