The plaintiff, who was in his twenties at the time, was shopping at Walmart in 2005. While he was preparing to go to customer service to return an item, he went to the bathroom. At the same time, a Wal-Mart janitor was cleaning the floor in the bathroom -- the floor was wet, but no wet floor sign had been placed.
As the plaintiff traversed the bathroom floor, he slipped and fell. In the process of that fall, he aggravated a pre-existing neck injury and sprained his ankle. The plaintiff, who had worked in construction, continued to be employed, but did so with limitations. His incurred medical bills, however, were only $7,474.
The plaintiff sued Wal-Mart and alleged negligence by its janitor in failing to warn him of the water hazard. There was no warning, yellow tape or floor placard. The plaintiff pointed out that this failure even violated Wal-Mart's own policies. Wal-Mart defended and denied fault and suggested that the plaintiff was the one at fault.
A jury in Williamsport found Wal-Mart solely at fault for the fall and entered a verdict of $ 1,288,674 for the plaintiff's economic loss. His non-economic damages were rejected. Wal-Mart has since moved for a new trial arguing that the damages were so excessive as to be punitive in nature. Interestingly, the plaintiff's final demand prior to trial was $125,000.
Clearly, the jury determined that Walmart was grossly at fault and was angered at Walmart's refusal to accept responsibility. This appears to have been exacerbated by Walmart's argument that the plaintiff was at all to blame for the fall.
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