Walmart patron awarded $17 million after shoplifter knocked her down

By The West Virginia Record | Mar 12, 2019

If you were out shopping and another customer bumped into you and knocked you down, would that be the store’s fault?

On the other hand, if a store employee bumped into you and knocked you down – or bumped into the other customer who then bumped into you – that might be another story and you might have grounds for a lawsuit.

Even if you could make your case that the store was somehow responsible for whatever injury you might have sustained from the fall, what kind of judgment could you expect to get? Compensation for medical costs, perhaps, and maybe some consideration for any lingering effects.

It would depend on the seriousness of your injury, of course, but, unless you happen to be Steve Austin the Six Million Dollar Man or Jaime Sommers the Bionic Woman, repairing your ordinary, unenhanced body parts would not likely be a multi-million-dollar effort.

We don’t know if Diane Ankrom works as a secret agent for the Office of Scientific Intelligence alongside Steve and Jaime, but a Wood Country jury needed less than two hours to determine that it would take nearly $17 million to make her whole again after she was knocked down by a fleeing shoplifter at the South Parkersburg Walmart four years ago.

Using some mystical formula, the jury concluded that Walmart was 30 percent responsible for the incident and the shoplifter 70 percent responsible. Walmart’s share of the burden, unless appealed, may ultimately be transferred to Ankrom. Slim to none are the odds of the shoplifter coming up with 70 percent of $17 million when he apparently could not afford the price of a pair of discount gloves.

A Walmart spokesman says company executives “strongly believe our associates did nothing wrong and followed company policy. The jury’s verdict is not supported by the evidence,” he emphasizes, “as we believe the actions of the shoplifter were the sole cause of Ms. Ankrom’s injuries.”

That’s the way it sounds to us, too, but we weren’t on the jury.

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