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TN Supreme Court to decide Walmart drunk driving case

A woman who was hit by a drunk driver in a Walmart parking lot will pursue her case against the store chain all the way to the Tennessee Supreme Court. The underlying facts of the case are that in February, 2011, another woman, who appeared to be intoxicated and belligerent, was told to leave the Signal Mountain Walmart. The woman then proceeded to get into her car in the parking lot, put it in reverse, and backed into another customer who was loading her car with groceries at the time of the car accident.

The driving woman kept trying to drive her car in reverse. Consequently, the woman who had been hit was trapped between the two cars. Other customers ran to shout at the driving woman to stop before she finally stopped her car.

The injured woman filed suit against the driver and Walmart, claiming that the store was liable with the driver for $1,000,000. Although the trial court dismissed the case against Walmart, the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled in the injured woman's favor, ruling that a business should take reasonable actions to protect its customers. Walmart and the National Federation of Independent Business have opposed the case, taking the position that a retailer cannot be expected to oversee the behavior of all of its customers.

The case presents issues concerning the extent to which businesses must be responsible for the behavior of their customers. The appellant will argue that Walmart knew that the woman appeared drunk and could do harm but ignored the situation. Walmart and other business organizations will argue it is unreasonable to require businesses to police their customers. The case will be argued before the Tennessee Supreme Court in September.

Source: NBC, "Woman hit by drunk driver in Walmart parking lot, case heads to TN Supreme Court", Matt Barbour, July 25, 2013

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