State Supreme Court Rules Woman Injured By Customer In Wal-Mart Parking Lot Can Proceed In Suit Against Store

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a customer injured by another customer in the parking lot of the Red Bank Wal-Mart store can proceed with her lawsuit against the store.

The case involves Jolyn Cullum, who had shopped at the store and was placing her groceries in the trunk of her car when another Wal-Mart customer, Jan McCool, backed her car into Ms. Cullum and injured her. Ms. Cullum and her husband, Andrew Cullum, alleged in a lawsuit filed against Ms.

McCool and Wal-Mart that Ms. McCool became belligerent after Wal-Mart pharmacy employees refused to fill her prescriptions because they believed she was intoxicated.

Wal-Mart employees, knowing she was alone and would be driving, ordered Ms. McCool to leave the store but did not call the police or take any actions to protect other customers from Ms. McCool. The Cullums alleged that Wal-Mart was negligent in failing to protect Ms. Cullum from the known dangers presented by Ms. McCool.

The trial court dismissed the Cullums’ claims against Wal-Mart, reasoning that Wal-Mart had no duty to control Ms. McCool, a third party. The Tennessee Court of Appeals reversed and reinstated the Cullums’ negligence claims against Wal-Mart.

On further appeal, the Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals and ruled that the Cullums had alleged sufficient facts to prevent the case from being dismissed at this early stage.

The Court said it is necessary to balance the predictability of the actions of a customer and the seriousness of the harm to Ms. Cullum against the burden placed on the store to take some action to prevent the harm. The Court reasoned that the Cullums’ allegations, taken as true at the motion to dismiss phase, established a duty of care on the part of Wal-Mart.

The Court cautioned that it was not ruling that the Cullums would prevail in the lawsuit nor that Wal-Mart would be found liable.

“We are simply holding that at this stage of the proceedings, Wal-Mart cannot show as a threshold matter of law that it did not have a duty to protect its patron, Ms. Cullum,” wrote Justice Sharon G. Lee for the Court.

Justice Janice M. Holder wrote a separate opinion in which she agreed that Wal-Mart owed a duty of reasonable care to its customers but disagreed that foreseeability of harm should be considered when determining whether a duty exists.

To read the majority opinion in Jolyn Cullum et al. v. Jan McCool et al. authored by Justice Lee, and the separate concurring and dissenting opinion by Justice Holder, visit the Opinions section of TNCourts.gov.

 


New Hamilton County Businesses

Here are the new business licenses from the County Clerk's office: GYPSY PICKER, THE 3411 HIXSON PIKE HIXSON, TN 37343   BUSY BEE DOLLAR STORE 1414 JENKINS RD STE 120 CHATTANOOGA, TN 37421   WINDOW CITY INC VARIOUS LOCATIONS CHATTANOOGA, TN 37402   WINDOW CITY INC VARIOUS LOCATIONS CHATTANOOGA, TN 37402   ELEANORS FLORAL SHOP ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Whiskey Applies For Permit For Distillery Across From Choo Choo

Officials of the Chattanooga Whiskey Company have applied for a permit for a distillery across from the Chattanooga Choo Choo. The location is at 1439 S. Market St. in a building owned by architect Thomas Johnson. The firm has given up on plans for a distillery at Fourth and Market, citing structural problems with the John Ross Building. (click for more)

Person Shot Sunday Morning On Englewood Avenue

One person was shot on Sunday morning in North Chattanooga. At approximately 9:18 a.m., the Chattanooga Police Department responded to a gunshot wound call at 1049 Englewood Ave. involving one victim. T he victim was transported to a local hospital suffering from a non-life-threatening gunshot wound. Chattanooga Police ask anyone with information regarding ... (click for more)

North Carolina Man Dies In Rafting Incident On The Ocoee River

A 50-year-old North Carolina man died Saturday morning when the raft he was aboard overturned in the Ocoee River. The victim was Gary Brown of Clayton. Mr. Brown and five other occupants along with a guide were ejected after the raft they were navigating overturned in a rapid.   The victim was unresponsive when he was recovered from the water further ... (click for more)

Dirt Decision At Camp Jordan May Come Back To Haunt East Ridge Councilmen

Wow. I thought the arrival of Bass Pro Shop would help bring East Ridge back to a position of prominence in the Chattanooga area, but the Council proved otherwise last night.  To the council - There is a reason that the developers want that dirt: It's valuable . You currently own it and the developer wants it. Bass Pro has already agreed to set up shop. They were going ... (click for more)

Farm To Table To Dollars

I recently hosted a discussion with local business leaders, Andy Berke, mayor of Chattanooga, and Heather McTeer Toney, southeast regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. We had an important conversation about the role of the business community in combating climate change. As the owner of 212 Market Restaurant in downtown Chattanooga, I’ve experienced ... (click for more)