The Wal-Mart Fiasco - Do Personal Injury Lawsuits result in safer conditions? I think not!
By now we are all aware of the senseless Thanksgiving day tragedy when over 2,000 customers swarmed into the New York Wal-Mart store at 5 a.m., trampling employee Jdimytai Damour. News reports showed that the local law enforcement was reviewing the surveillance videos to try to determine if they could identify any of the shoppers who were responsible for Mr. Damour's death.
Ironically, it seems to me, that the law enforcement needed not to look at the videos, but would have better luck at finding who was at least partially responsible by looking in a mirror. Anyone who has viewed the pre-stampede videos of the Wal-Mart parking lot could see the huge crowd excitedly waiting for the exact second when they could rush the front doors. You can see by the above photo the relatively small entrance door of the Wal-Mart store. Early in the morning Nassau Country police officers visited the location and witnessed the growingly unruly crowd -- however the officers left a short time later. After the tragedy the police lamely explained that they could not be responsible for guarding a Wal-Mart -- asserting that it was the responsibility of the Wal-Mart security force.
Besides examining the surveillance video of the shoppers, I also suggest that law enforcement take a look at a photo of the Wal-Mart Corporate Board of Directors. Could it have never occurred to these highly paid individuals that offering ridiculously low prices on expensive merchandises for their Black Friday sales would not result in injury or death of a customer or employee? This was not an isolated incident. Take a look at the below surveillance video at another Wal-Mart store on Black Friday. You will see people injured by the rush of frenzied shoppers. Indeed, the buck stops here: the Wal-Mart Board of Directors. The only reason they would permit such dangerous conditions for their "valued employees" and "valued shoppers" is because they were blinded by profits.
The victim's family has filed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart (and others involved), with the claim that Wal-Mart "engaged in specific marketing and advertising techniques to specifically attract a large crowd and create an environment of frenzy and mayhem and was otherwise careless, reckless and negligent."
As bad as this tragedy is, what is particularly disturbing to me is up until the well-publicized death of an employee, Wal-Mart was willing to let conditions exist over the past years that have caused injuries. Wal-Mart has been sued previously for Black Friday injuries, costing the company a great deal of money to have them settled. You would think those prior lawsuits would have motivated Wal-Mart to have enacted changes to eliminate or at least greatly reduce the possibility of injuries at these sales events. Such as adding barricades, offering numbered ticketing systems -- as other more responsible chain stores have enacted. Sadly that is not the case. Even after being hit by lawsuits in the past, Wal-Mart only did the minimal adjustments necessary. They did nothing truly proactive to prevent what was going to happen sooner or later -- a death of an innocent person.
As a personal injury attorney I would like to think that large settlements help reduce the future possibility of injuries or wrongful deaths because of corporate fears of large monetary rewards. But sadly most corporations are willing to "look the other way" and write off personal injury lawsuits as just another cost of doing business.
Unfortunately, this time the cost was paid by a Wal-Mart employee who was known and loved by his friends and family as a gentle giant: Mr. Jdimytai Damour.
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