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.

 


Unemployment Rate Decreases In 86 Of 95 Tennessee Counties

County unemployment rates for March show the rate decreased in 86 Tennessee counties, increased in four, and remained the same in five. Specific county information for March is available on the Internet; enter http://www.tn.gov/labor-wfd/labor_figures/March_Laborestimates.pdf . Davidson County had the state’s lowest major metropolitan rate of 5.5 percent in March, down ... (click for more)

Natalie Roy Joins Full Media's Chattanooga Office

Internet marketing and website development company, Full Media, recently hired Natalie Roy as an Internet marketing analyst in the company’s Chattanooga office. Ms. Roy joins Full Media with an extensive background in public relations and marketing. A Chattanooga native, she is dedicated to the community and growing businesses within it. “I care deeply about Chattanooga, so ... (click for more)

Berke Names Fred Fletcher, Of Austin, Tex., New Chattanooga Police Chief

Mayor Andy Berke announced Thursday that Fred Fletcher of Austin, Tex., is his pick for Chattanooga Chief of Police. With 20 years of experience in law enforcement, Mr. Fletcher has served in an executive, command, or supervisory role for 12 years.  As commander in Region III of the Austin Police Department, Mr. Fletcher spearheaded community initiatives including a drug market ... (click for more)

Child, 23 Months, Found Dead In Crib With Fentanyl Patch On Back; Death Ruled Homicide

A 23-month-old Chattanooga boy has been found dead in his crib with a Fentanyl patch on his back. The death of Demarcus Bryant at 7655 Borris Dr. last month was ruled a homicide. An autopsy report says he died from "Fentanyl patch placed by someone else." Chattanooga Police are investigating. No one has yet been charged. The child was found face down in his crib. ... (click for more)

A Slap In The Face To Local Police Applicants

Little Andy has once again shown what he thinks about the Chattanooga Police Department by ignoring all the applicants from within the department. There were several great candidates within the police department that had as much experience as the chosen one from 1,000 miles away. This is a slap in the face for any officer who is at the Chattanooga Police Department who has aspirations ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Northwestern Players Vote

The National Labor Relations Board, 0-1 this week after the United Auto Workers cancelled a hearing one hour before it was to begin in Chattanooga, has another chance for a last-minute finish today. In what will be under a more harsh light, the Northwestern University football team is expected to vote on whether to become a union Friday morning. Yesterday afternoon there remained ... (click for more)