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.

 


Patrick, Beard, Schulman And Jacoway, P.C. Attorneys Selected To 2016 Mid-South Super Lawyers List

Patrick, Beard, Schulman and Jacoway, P.C. announces that Richard A. Schulman, Michael A. Anderson, and Jeremy M. Cothern have been selected by their peers for inclusion in the Mid-South Super Lawyers for 2016. Each year, no more than five percent of the lawyers in the states of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee are selected by the research team at Super Lawyers to receive ... (click for more)

Hamilton County Emergency Communications District Implements Inform CAD, Mobile System

Hamilton County Emergency Communications District has gone live with Inform CAD and Mobile, a step in an upgrade of their emergency communications and response technology. Combining the new technologies in place at Hamilton County which include TriTech 911, which Hamilton County installed in 2014, Inform CAD, and Inform Mobile, provides the district with a modernized communications ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Council Looking Into Taking Over Schools

A new group of Signal Mountain Town Council members is looking into taking over county schools within the town boundaries.   Two newly elected board members, Amy Speek and Dan Landrum, joined the council Friday afternoon at the first work session after the election. The election of mayor and vice mayor for the next two years came first on the agenda. Dick Gee, mayor ... (click for more)

Curtis Coleman Sentenced To 144 Months For Dealing Heroin

Curtis Allen Coleman, 41, of Dayton, Ohio, was sentenced to serve 144 months in prison by Federal Judge Travis R. McDonough for heroin distribution in Chattanooga. Coleman pleaded guilty in August to a federal indictment charging him with, among other things, conspiracy to distribute heroin.  According to information on file with the United States District ... (click for more)

Tennessee River Gorge Trust Trail Warriors Make You Want To Take A Hike

Trail warriors of the Tennessee River Gorge Trust make you want to take a hike.  The Tennessee River Gorge Trust staff and volunteers make a huge difference in the Chattanooga community and have been making the outdoor areas around the River Gorge clean and protected for more than 30 years.  They deserve to be recognized and praised for all of the hard work they have ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Why Our Schools Stink

Cheryl Roddy has spent her lifetime, for the biggest part, as a teacher for the Hamilton County Department of Education and, more specifically, at East Ridge High School. She has loved teaching there for nearly 40 years and is hardly “average;” she has her master's degree in education, was twice East Ridge’s teacher of the year, was the first teacher at East Ridge to reach the first ... (click for more)