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County Line - If stuff happens, so do lawsuits
If stuff happens, so do lawsuits
When I first learned about the 66-year-old Bainbridge man who is suing the Wal-Mart corporation over injuries he suffered at his local store, my thoughts turned to David and Goliath, one of the classic journalism angles. Some people may not know that Samuel, whose account of that glorious battle holds Old Testament acclaim, was one of the earliest newsmen. Many interpreters of current history follow in his footsteps to this very day. I envisioned a mild-mannered citizen stepping up to sling stones at the biggest, meanest retail giant of our time -- probably with very good reason.
Possibly, I figured, a careless stock person had stacked some Chinese-made electronic products too high on a shelf, resulting in a carton toppling onto the hapless customer's head. Or maybe the cleaning crew had neglected to mop up the contents from a shattered hot-sauce container on the Mexican-food aisle, causing the unfortunate customer to slip and slam flat on his back. I even considered the possibility of overzealous security personnel causing bodily harm after falsely accusing the innocent shopper of illicit activity.
Nothing of the kind occurred. I soon learned that the plaintiff's injury did not take place inside the store but outside in the parking, and it was not due to icy conditions, an out-of-control shopping cart or a loose brick falling from the building.
In fact, the incident was characterized as an assault, and a 30-year-old Aurora man was arrested and charged with a first-degree misdemeanor in connection with it. Aside from his presence in the parking lot, the alleged assailant has no evident connections with Wal-Mart.
I don't mean to make light of the victim's misfortune. But stuff happens. People get beaten and robbed, sexually harassed, subjected to indecent exposure and sometimes much worse in many locations. Assaults occur with regularity inside and outside of restaurants and taverns, in schoolyards and football stadiums, parks and recreation centers, at golf courses and bowling alleys, banks and gas stations. They occur in parking lots of supermarkets, discount stores, coffee shops, movie theaters and, occasionally, even at police stations.
Neither the police nor private security forces can be everywhere at all times, even though many Americans yearn for the type of surveillance that can be found in China or North Korea. While Wal-Mart and most other major retail outlets employ security personnel and monitor customers with video cameras, they can't even catch all the thieves that make shoplifting a significant factor in doing business.
So, to claim, as the Bainbridge Wal-Mart shopper and his lawyer did, that the giant retail conglomerate is responsible for the injurious assault that occurred in its parking lot is befuddling.
According to the lawsuit, Wal-Mart "should have known that shoppers, customers, patrons and business invitees would be placed in danger from criminal elements ..." The victim's attorney insisted that the store "should have taken precautions to prevent what happened. All different elements come to Wal-Mart."
But the Bainbridge Police Department could not recall any previous such assault incidents at the local store or in its parking lot.
Unfortunately, assaults can and do occur just about anywhere, anytime and for any reason. The same thing can be said for lawsuits.
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