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.

 


CBL & Associates Properties Reports Same-Center Sales Are Up For Second Quarter

CBL & Associates Properties, Inc. announced results for the second quarter ended June 30, including an increase in same-center sales.  CBL's President and Chief Executive Officer Stephen Lebovitz commented, "Overall fundamentals in the CBL portfolio remain healthy. Same-center sales increased 4.1 percent during the second quarter, marking another quarter of impressive ... (click for more)

CBL & Associates Announces $200 Million Share Repurchase Program

CBL & Associates Properties, Inc. Wednesday announced that its board of directors has authorized a share repurchase program for the company to buy up to $200 million of its common stock. The company plans to repurchase shares from time to time on the open market, in privately negotiated transactions or otherwise, depending on market prices and other conditions. Purchases may ... (click for more)

County Taking First Step Toward Replacing County Jail Downtown With Workhouse Addition At Silverdale

County officials are taking the first step toward replacing the long-criticized county jail downtown with an addition at the workhouse at Silverdale. The County Commission is set to approve next Wednesday a $150,000 contract for the PFM government financial consulting firm to begin working out the details. County Mayor Jim Coppinger said he believes the move will save the ... (click for more)

Birchwood Residents Organize To Try To Keep Old School

Birchwood residents have organized to try to keep the old Birchwood School that serves as a community center. Jason Wright, who said he is an alumnus of the school and recently moved his family back home, said the community is concerned over the possibility of the county tearing the school down. He said he was advised that the boiler in the old school has stopped working and ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Strong

The hearts, minds and prayers of Tennesseans, and of the entire nation, have been turned toward Chattanooga this month.  We are sickened and saddened by the senseless tragedy, and we grieve for the families of the five service members who were killed, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas J. Sullivan, Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist, Lance Cpl. Squire “Skip” K. Wells, Staff Sgt. David A. Wyatt and ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Could Obama Win Again?

When President Barack Obama spoke to the African Union yesterday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, he made a pretty brash statement: “I actually think I’m a pretty good president,” he told the African leaders. “I think if I ran, I could win. But I can’t.” While everyone is entitled to their opinion, I don’t think that’s true. Obviously, term limits keep Obama from running, but as I sit ... (click for more)