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Wal-Mart Not to Blame
by Ron Davis
A woman injured in a fall at a New Orleans Wal-Mart Super Center has failed to prove that the store’s employees or managers were at fault in the incident.
The woman claimed that the fall occurred when she slipped in the produce section of the store. She said a “saturated rug” in that section caused the fall. And she blamed the accident on the negligence of the store’s personnel.
Details of the incident show that she was at the store with a friend and they had shopped there for several hours. She eventually walked to the produce section, where she selected some fruits and vegetables. Then as she stepped over to her shopping cart, she slipped and fell forward, landing on her hands and knees.
The woman said that while in that position on the floor, she noticed that her pants legs and her hands were wet. She added that she also noticed debris on the floor and a “bump” in the rug that she landed on.
Finally, she said that when she first tried to rise to her feet, the rug moved, but she did not recall if the floor under the rug was wet.
At the time of the woman’s fall, a Wal-Mart employee was working nearby. And another employee was also in the produce section a short distance away.
Efforts of the woman to rise from her semi-prone position were unsuccessful, and the store manager soon arrived at the scene. Store personnel then helped her to her feet and then into an unoccupied room, where she received ice for her injured knees.
The woman said she had undergone prior surgeries on her back and neck and was taking medication for pain in her neck, shoulders and back. She added, however, that she did not have a high level of pain or radiating leg symptoms until after the fall. She also said that after the fall she was unable to stand or sit for long periods and is no longer able to work as a babysitter because she is unable to carry small children.
In response to her charges of negligence, Wal-Mart pointed out that the store has maintenance associates who keep debris and liquid spills off the floor. Moreover, every store employee is encouraged to look for hazards at all times and to pick up any debris that falls to the floor.
Louisiana law states that in a negligence lawsuit against a property owner, the mere showing of a hazardous condition by a person who is injured in a fall is insufficient for a finding of liability. The injured person must also show that the condition existed for some time before the fall occurred.
A Louisiana court found that the injured woman in this case had not proved negligence on the part of Wal-Mart. Explained the judge, “She did not notice any debris or water on the floor before the fall.... Photos [taken just after the fall] in fact show very little debris and no water on the floor. Further, she did not present evidence from either of the two employees in the area that they were aware of any water or debris on the floor.” (Hernandez v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 2006 WL 1071876 [La.App. 5 Cir.])
Decision: April 2006
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