Woman hit by drunk driver in Walmart parking lot, case heads to TN Supreme Court
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -
A Chattanooga woman says she is not backing down in her fight against retail giant, Walmart. She is suing the company for negligence, after being hit in the parking lot by an intoxicated customer. The case is now headed to the Tennessee Supreme Court.
Jolyn Cullum is suing Wal-Mart, and the Signal Mountain woman accused of hitting her with her car, for $1,000,000. The case raises questions about the responsibilities businesses face in looking after customers.
In February of 2011, Jan McCool was kicked out of the Signal Mountain Walmart on the suspicion that she was drunk.
"They threw her out of the store knowing she was alone, knowing she was intoxicated, knowing she was belligerent," says Amelia Roberts, Cullum's attorney.
She then got in her car, threw it into reverse, and hit the gas, backing into Jolyn Cullum, as she loaded groceries into her vehicle.
"Pinned her between the two cars, kept backing up. People had to run in, screaming, telling her to stop," says Roberts.
Cullum filed a lawsuit against McCool and Walmart, suing for $1,000,000 in damages.
"All we're asking is that a jury hear the case and the jury decide what's reasonable," says Roberts.
A lower court dismissed the case against Walmart but Cullum appealed. And the Tennessee Court of Appeals sided with her.
Roberts says the law is clear that a business should take reasonable actions to protect its customers.
"In this case they knew something was going to happen. They knew who the bad player was and knew that this was a dangerous situation and they turned a blind eye to it," she says.
"It's a very important case for business," says Jim Brown.
Jim Brown is the Tennessee state director for the National Federation of Independent Business. The organization has filed a brief in the case, asking the Tennessee Supreme Court to uphold the original ruling, saying it is unreasonable to baby sit every customer.
"Is it the employer's role to go in and actually police this situation?" asks Brown.
Channel 3 reached out to Walmart corporate communications for comment on the case and received this response from Randy Hargrove: "This is a regrettable accident involving two customers in our parking lot. We think the issue of a business having liability for the actions of an allegedly intoxicated customer is an important one for the Supreme Court of Tennessee to decide. We believe the trial court properly ruled when it dismissed the case against us. We look forward to the Tennessee Supreme Court's decision."
Channel 3 also talked with Jan McCool. She declined to comment and referred us to her attorney. We have yet to hear back from him.
The case goes before the Tennessee Supreme Court in September. We will let you know what happens.