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1998-12-30
Gretna, LA. Wal-Mart Personal Injury Case

Wal-Mart forced a 50 year old nurse from Louisiana to spend three years in court to prevail in a $45,000 personal injury lawsuit that resulted from falling merchandise at a Wal-Mart store. Wal-Mart lost its case at the trial court level, and then appealed the case to the Fifth Circuit Court of appeals. They lost there also, but in the process, required to plaintiff, who was injured in April of 1995, to wait until December 16, 1998 for the courts to vindicate her. Here's what happened: On April 30, 1995, Pamela Lapeyrouse was reaching for a can of gatorade on a Wal-Mart shelf. The shelf was higher than her head. Several cans of the product fell from the shelf and struck her in the face. She was just recovering from dermatological surgery, and the cans opened several sutures on her face. At the trial judge level, the court found Wal-Mart was 75% at fault. Merchants are required by Louisiana law to use reasonable care to keep aisles, passageways and floors in a reasonably safe condition, free of hazards which might cause injury. During the trial, Wal-Mart denied Lapeyrouse's claim that the Gatorade cans protruded over the lip of the shelf. Wal-Mart employees were shown pictures of similar products that were stacked over the edge of the shelf, but still they denied this was the case. Wal-Mart testified that they notify employees every hour, by store zones, to perform safety checks on aisles and shelves, yet there is no mention in the Wal-Mart Safety Manual for employees of instructions for how to stack merchandise. The Appeal court found the Wal-Mart employee's statements not credible, and that "a premise hazard existed at Wal-Mart." Lapeyrouse was diagnosed with chronic cervical spine strain after the accident, and would need surgery costing $45,000 to correct the cervical disc injury that had "significant aggravation" after the Wal-Mart accident. The 3 judges affirmed the ruling of the trial court, found Wal-Mart 75% responsible for the accident, and awarded Lapeyrouse $45,000 in general damages, and $2,794 in medical expenses. Wal-Mart was also forced to pay for the legal costs of the appeal.

What you can do: Who really won here? The plaintiff, Pamela Lapeyrouse, waited three and a half years after her accident to finally be vindicated by the courts.Wal-Mart fought the case at the trial level, and then again to the Court of Appeals. The financial judgement to Lapeyrouse was minor compared to the legal expenses Wal-Mart spent to fight the case. Every year there are many cases of personal injury caused by unsafe conditions at discount stores. For other examples of "falling merchandise" cases, review these newsflash pages below.










 
 
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