Walmart must pay nearly $17 million to a West Virginia woman who was injured while store employees tried to detain a shoplifter, the state Supreme Court affirmed this week, outlets report.
Diane Ankrom was shopping with her daughter and grandchildren at a Walmart in South Parkersburg in 2015 when a man accused of shoplifting came running down the aisle and collided with her shopping cart, according to court documents.
Ankrom fell to the floor and her young granddaughter flew out of the cart, which then fell on top of Ankrom, surveillance video shows, according to the documents.
“Ms. Ankrom suffered severe bruising, necrosis, and microperforations in the small intestine that required her to undergo seven surgeries and to incur over $2,700,000 in medical bills,” her legal team wrote in a 2020 brief. “Future medical bills are likely to exceed $3,700,000.”
Ankrom’s team argued that her injuries occurred because Walmart violated its own policy regarding how to handle shoplifting. Instead of taking action to de-escalate the situation or to avoid confrontation altogether, employees created an unnecessary and ultimately dangerous scenario, Ankrom’s lawyers said.
Loss prevention specialists confronted the alleged shoplifter at the front of the store after he tried to steal a pair of gloves, documents say. The verbal confrontation turned physical, and two loss prevention specialists grabbed the shoplifter.
The shoplifter broke away from them, sprinted away, and soon ran into Ankrom, the documents say.
“Despite the industry standards and Walmart’s own policies, Walmart cultivated a culture that promoted an unhealthy competition among loss prevention employees and encouraged them to make arrests,” documents read. “To begin with, Walmart employees received bonuses and pay raises based on the strength of their store’s profitability – which turned, in part, on the recovery of stolen merchandise.”
According to Walmart’s legal team, neither the store or employees were to blame, as the shoplifter’s behavior was “unforeseeable.” Additionally, the team denied that any employees chased the shoplifter after he ran away from loss prevention specialists at the front of the store, documents show.
In 2019, a West Virginia circuit court awarded Ankrom $16,922,000. Walmart appealed that verdict, but the state Supreme Court upheld the decision Wednesday, outlets report.
“We are pleased that the Supreme Court recognized … that the jury and judge who heard the case got it right,” Jamie Bordas, a member of Ankrom’s legal team, told WTRF. “When you are taking on a large corporation like Walmart, it is never an easy task. However, Diane had the courage to do this and we are happy that we were able to help her achieve this outcome…” Lexington Herald Leader