From a strictly legal standpoint Walmart may have prevailed this week in a case involving a customer who was murdered in its parking lot after a jury found the company wasn’t liable for inadequate security. Then again, the mere fact that Walmart had to appear in court to defend itself against charges stemming from a murder in its parking lot meant the company was a loser before the trial began simply because of the negative publicity.
Let’s be clear, the biggest loser was the guy who got murdered, Michael Born, an unfortunate fellow who was attempting to replace a headlight in the parking lot. Attorneys for the plaintiffs claimed that Walmart knew the store was located in a high-crime area, and that police were repeatedly called to the site. However, neither Walmart nor its hired security service, Wackenhut, took adequate measures to protect Walmart customers. Wackenhut, but not Walmart, was found liable and the jury awarded $1 million in damages.
“This is what's extremely frightening about this case,” explained Walmart lawyer Rob Phillips with Phillips, Spallas and Angstadt, “We are imposing on the Walmart store a super-human, an incredible burden. I implore you to understand that a retailer does not provide a dome of protection for individuals. There is no law that says when someone walks on the property they are guaranteed to be safe from erratic behavior, or criminals that have an intent to commit crimes. Nonetheless, Wal-Mart provided better security than anyone else in the retail industry at the time of the crime.”
All of that is true, but it doesn’t send a very comforting message to Walmart shoppers.
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