Big Lots says it isn't responsible for woman's injuries

By Kelly Holleran | Feb 16, 2010

CHARLESTON – Big Lots says it is not to blame for a woman's alleged injuries, including a pacemaker the woman says she had to have implanted, as the result of a fall she sustained while attempting to open a door at its Ravenswood store.

Ruth V. White originally filed a complaint against Big Lots, saying she fell while attempting to exit the store.

White claims she was trying to open a heavy door while also attempting to finagle a shopping cart over a rug the store had lying in front of its door as she was leaving the facility on Dec. 22, 2008.

"I had one hand on the door and one hand on the cart," White explained in her complaint. "I was offered no help although when I came in the store I was using a cane to walk with. I pushed the cart, the cart gained momentum, I had to let it go as I couldn't keep up with it. I fell and hurt my left shoulder and back. There was something like electricity running up and down my spine."

Although she also hurt her right knee during the fall, White did not go to the doctor that evening, according to her complaint.

"At home all I wanted to do was sit with my head in my hands," she wrote.

Four days after the alleged incident, White was forced to begin using a walker instead of her usual cane to assist with her gait, the complaint says.

Eventually, White claims she went to Jackson General Hospital in Ripley, where she says a doctor referred her to another physician.

That physician ordered an EKG, then sent her to Thomas Memorial Hospital in Charleston where she had a pacemaker implanted, the suit states.

In her complaint, White is asking Big Lots to pay for her medical expenses, plus her pain and suffering. She also wants the store to replace its door.

But Big Lots argues White should receive no money and denies her allegations that a hazardous condition existed on its property. In addition, it says there is no connection between White's injury and her fall.

It also claims White's injuries were a result of her own negligence and were not in any way caused by the store's actions.

"For a ninth, separate and distinct defense, Big Lots states that Ruth White had a duty to look, and to look effectively, and to exercise ordinary care to avoid a hazard, and if any failure to do so resulted in her alleged injuries, then his own negligence must defeat recovery of any damages sustained," the suit states.

Because it kept its store free of any hidden dangers and because its store was in a safe condition, Big Lots says it should be free of any liability.

"For a twelfth, separate and distinct defense, Big Lots states that an owner of a business is not liable for every injury occurring on its premises, but rather is only liable if it allows hidden or unnatural conditions to exist which precipitate the injury," the suit states.

Big Lots is asking the court to dismiss White's case against it and to award it damages.

Because White appears to be seeking more than $75,000 and because she is a resident of a different state than Big Lots, the store removed her complaint to U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.

White will be representing herself.

Amanda Davis of Frost, Brown, Todd in Charleston will be representing Big Lots.

U.S. District Court case number: 2:10-27

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