Based on the evidence presented by opposing parties, a jury is faced with the dilemma of determining whether a particular lawsuit is frivolous or legitimate. The 1994 McDonald’s coffee lawsuit paved the way for public speculation of seemingly litigious lawsuits. The black and white version is that a customer sustained permanent injuries and someone had to pay the consequences. The gray line was left for the jury to determine: whether or not the customer or McDonald’s was negligent in the situation. In that particular case, the jury felt that the fast food chain carried the burden of responsibility more so than the injured party. A similar decision was met in the recent case of Henry Walker vs. Walmart.
On June 25, 2015, Henry Walker went to Walmart, intending to purchase a watermelon. When he reached for a desirable melon, Mr. Walker slipped. His foot snagged on a protruding wooden pallet, causing him to fall. The incident resulted in Mr. Walker’s fractured hip and a lifetime of pain and suffering. In an instant, Mr. Walker’s life went from that of a physically active gentleman, to that of a man forced to use a walker to aid in mobility.
The jury agreed that the unfortunate accident at Walmart was worth the verdict of $7.5 million in compensation. While $2.5 million will be paid to Mr. Walker in compensatory damages to help pay for medical care, the remaining $5 million will be paid in punitive damages, to serve as an example and warning for Walmart to take consideration in the safety of their customers.
Walmart is appalled by the ruling in this lawsuit, and plans to appeal. According to a Walmart representative, the damages awarded to Mr. Walker were extreme, given the circumstances. The superstore maintains innocence in the matter, and actually points to Henry Walker as the negligent party. Despite the ruling for punitive damages, Walmart has continued to, and intends to continue to, use the pallets for the stores’ melon displays.