You can’t make this stuff up

The husband of a woman who died following a bizarre series of developments precipitated by a shopping trip to Walmart is pursuing an even more bizarre lawsuit alleging the retailer and its manufacturer of plastic bags are at fault.

The story is a cautionary tale for retailers who often have to view every customer as potential litigant and raises interesting questions about when, if ever, a retailer’s liability ends. The case in question involved a woman in Plattsmouth, Neb., who cut her foot after the bag broke in which she was carrying two 42-ounce cans of La Choy brand products and a two pound bag of rice. As a result of the incident on April 16, 2010, the 57-year-old woman broke her big toe and suffered a deep cut. The cut became infected and a year later she died.

The wrongful death lawsuit filed by her spouse seeks $656,000 for medical expenses and an unspecified amount for pain and suffering from Walmart and the bag manufacturer. The plaintiff’s lawyer contends Walmart was negligent for failing to train its employees from overfilling bags and knowing when to double bag items, while the bag manufacturer is alleged to have provided a defective bag. Not named in the suit is La Choy manufacturer ConAgra Foods, but as long as people are being sued why exclude them? If they were not so generous with the portion size and had not packaged the product in a can with a sharp edge the woman would not have cut her foot and subsequently developed an infection.

Shouldn’t ConAgra have known that if its 42-ounce product were dropped from a height commonly experienced by shoppers in a retail environment that said product would be capable of inflicting serious bodily injury, possibly resulting in death? And shouldn’t ConAgra, being in possession of such knowledge, have been obligated to include a prominent, front-of-pack warning label alerting consumers to the risks associated with purchasing their product? For that matter, should Walmart post signs warning signs at store entrances and other prominent locations that shopping in its stores is potentially hazardous? Maybe greeters could obtain customers signatures on waivers as they enter stores. Should bag manufacturers begin including warnings on bags near corporate logos?

It’s terrible that a woman has died and a court will decide whether the case has merit. However, assigning liability to Walmart and the bag manufacturer seems to be an over-reach as well as a reminder that whenever life takes an unfortunate turn someone else must be at fault.

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