Tennessee court allows patron injured in parking lot to sue Wal-Mart
The Supreme Court of Tennessee recently ruled that an unusual premises liability case may proceed to trial. The case involves an incident that occurred in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart store.

March 19, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- The Supreme Court of Tennessee recently ruled that an unusual premises liability case may proceed to trial. The case involves an incident that occurred in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart store. An allegedly known patron to the store was intoxicated to the point that Walmart employees felt it necessary to ask her to leave. After getting in her vehicle in a state of intoxication, she hit another Walmart customer who was on packing groceries into the trunk of her vehicle.

The injured customer sued Wal-Mart for negligence alleging that the store knew the other patron - the one who had been asked to leave the store - was impaired by alcohol. The trial court dismissed the action but the appeals court reversed that decision. The case was then accepted for review by the Tennessee Supreme Court. The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the appeals court and sent the matter back to the lower court.

Business owners have expressed concern that the Supreme Court ruling sets a problematic legal precedent in the area of premises liability.

Premises liability case involves parking lot between intoxicated motorist and pedestrian

The case of Cullum v. McCool involves an incident in the parking lot of a Chattanooga Wal-Mart store in 2011. A woman packing groceries into her car's trunk was injured when a car driven by another woman backed into her.

As the Supreme Court of Tennessee case judgment explains, the driver had previously entered the Wal-Mart store and requested that the pharmacy fill her prescriptions. However, pharmacy staff turned her away because they suspected that she was intoxicated. The individual then became "belligerent," and she was asked to leave the store. The accident occurred after this patron returned to her car.

The injured woman sued Wal-Mart for negligence alleging that the store's staff knew the other patron was intoxicated and, more important to the point, that the intoxicated patron would be driving a car.

Wal-Mart asked the trial court to dismiss the case and the court granted the store's motion. The Tennessee Court of Appeals, however, reversed that decision ruling that the store "owed the injured patron a duty of care to protect her from the intoxicated patron."

Tennessee Supreme Court allows lawsuit against store to proceed

The Supreme Court agreed with the appeals court. The judges ruled that "the foreseeability of harm" in these circumstances "outweighed the burden placed on the store" to protect its customers against such harm. Therefore the Supreme Court sent the matter back to the lower court to be tried.

Business owners express concern about legal precedent in area of premises liability

An article about the case in the Chattanooga Times Free Press--written before the Supreme Court ruling--notes that Tennessee business owners are concerned about a possible legal precedent involving premises liability.

A spokesperson for the National Federation of Independent Business states that the lawsuit, if successful, would impose a "baby-sitting duty" on business owners, requiring them to protect patrons from all dangers - including other patrons - both inside the store and elsewhere on the property.

Anyone injured while visiting a business, a public building or other premises should contact a personal injury lawyer with extensive experience in premises liability cases. An attorney with relevant expertise will assess each unique set of facts and offer expert advice on available legal options.

Article provided by Ramer & Hedrick, P.C.
Visit us at www.ramerandhedrick.com

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