Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
December 5, 2008
LAW: Trampled Under Foot

Two thoughts on the Valley Stream Wal-Mart trampling story.

1. You need one seriously unruly crowd - at 5am! - to trample to death a man who is 6'5" and weighs 270 pounds.

2. Somehow, it seems there's a rush here - obviously by lawyers looking for deep pockets - to blame absolutely everybody except the people who trampled a guy to death to go shopping, and apparently did so only because he was in the way of a pregnant woman they were in the process of trampling. I mean, Wal-Mart is a store, not a zoo. It shouldn't have to anticipate people acting like this.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:07 PM | Law 2006-08 | Comments (19) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Obviously, lawyers have their reasons to want to blame Wal-Mart. But it's also true that if you are going to set up a mania-inducing situation, like, say, ultra-cheap big screen TVs or first-come, first-serve seating at a Who concert, you have an obligation to provide the corresponding security.

Posted by: Jerry at December 5, 2008 7:22 PM

Jerry - they did provide security and security did its job, protecting a pregnant woman. Is Walmart required to provide security for its security? Could a police officer sue a city for not keeping its streets safe enough for a police officer safely to do his job?

Also, Crank, your "Somehow" statement makes you sound impossibly naive about why there is a rush to go after Walmart instead of the individuals.

Posted by: ChinMusic at December 5, 2008 8:52 PM

Teaser specials are akin to general admission seating at a rock concert, WMT will write the check.

Posted by: dave at December 5, 2008 9:43 PM

"I mean, Wal-Mart is a store, not a zoo. It shouldn't have to anticipate people acting like this."

Well, with one exception. There are numerous incidents like this, going back years, often videotaped by the media positioned inside the doors as free advertising by Wal-Mart.

It's trivial to prove that a rush through the door was expected, that police notified them they needed to provide their own security, or to compare vs. past years and news reports of past tramplings(there have been). If there's even one email or document that says anything like 'we should consider setting up an ordered line outside', it gets worse.

Though right now, last I read, the police are reviewing security tapes for criminal violations. It's entirely possible that a line of John Does will be added, correlating security tapes to purchases made with credit cards or police IDs, and shared liability is made.

Posted by: Dave at December 5, 2008 11:18 PM

First, the police in Valley Stream showed up before the opening, and reported that WalMart's secrity was inadequate.

Second, I blame the animals who trampled that poor victim. However, it's you lawyers Crank, who have trained the public to always look for someone to blame. Especially someone else, and most especially with deep pockets.

Third, I hate all stores that open that early on that Friday. It means all the employees have to end Thanksgiving with their families early. And to me, Thanksgiving is sacred.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at December 5, 2008 11:59 PM

Waitasec—people trample each other charging into the zoo?

Seriously...

1. I had no idea this dude was that big.

2. WalMart is asking for this kind of shit to happen. And it has happened many times before—just without the actual death.

3. That said, this crowd was over the top—they took the doors off the tracks!

4. In (mild) defense of anybody caught in that stampede—once that crowd becomes a living white water rapid of bodies there's nothing you can do except try to stay upright lest you be trampled yourself. It's entirely possible not more than a few people were even aware of what was happening in the moment, and may not have been able to do anything.

5. The police handled this awfully as well. How the hell was that store not closed right then. It's a crime scene at that point.

6. You need to have your head examined to camp out for one of those sales.

7. These deals aren't even that great...$29 DVD player? So what? The normal price is $36.

8. I ranted about this in '05.

Posted by: Mr. Furious at December 6, 2008 2:24 AM

I agree with Jerry. Sure, the crowd bears a lot of the blame, but Walmart needed to provide more security outside. It's not like Walmart didn't expect a large crowd.

Posted by: MVH at December 6, 2008 10:09 AM

"One lawyer in a town, he goes goes broke. Two lawyers, they become rich."

Charge the people who did the trampling first. They, not Wal-Mart did the the killing. Then, you can talk about if Wal-mart should have did a better job.

We have to stop looking away from the direct causes to find the indirect causes. The people trampled the person. Make them accountable for THEIR actions!

Posted by: Lee at December 6, 2008 10:44 AM

Nothing says Happy Birthday baby Jesus like trampling a guy to death on Black Friday!!!!!! We're missing the point, the season has become more about getting more stuff instead of celbrating the birth of CHrist.

Posted by: maddirishman at December 7, 2008 8:45 AM

Lee,

I'd agree with you if it were realistic to identify those people and prove who was responsible. Even the police admit it would be a thin possibility to identify the people in the mob.

But even if you do that, which of the mob of people "caused" the death? Was it the first person, the person stepped on him or maybe the people pushing from behind who caused the other people to step on them? That would be an extraordinarily difficult case to prove.

Posted by: MVH at December 7, 2008 9:17 AM

What a lot of people are doing is talking past each other on these things. There are obvious direct causes and then there are contributing factors. The lawyers will be arguing that Walmart has contributing guilt. As much as I dislike the overly litigious nature of folks today, they will be right that Walmart shares some responsibility.

The real issue is next year and future ones. I don't want additional law written by the idiots we elect to office. However, there is an obvious problem with these teaser ads. You create a frenzy by offering a low price on some crap and then putting in the small print "only six per store." The stores need to police themselves and realize this Black Friday strategy is flawed. If they don't some congresscritter will.

Posted by: largebill at December 7, 2008 10:18 AM

As I've said before, I blame WalMart, but the crowd much more. However, what kind of legislation gets written that Mr. Madison will permit? That the people can't assemble? It's always a common sense issue. I don't know how many times before someone has died this way; but the real issue is how to prevent this in the future, and realistically, it will always be at a WalMart or Mall type of place; so an insurance company will now start writing Flash Crowd (thanks Larry Niven) policies, and extra guards will be hired, or a wrongful death suit won't be covered. There, problem solved. Now can we not permit store openings before noon? Let everyone sleep late.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at December 7, 2008 11:33 AM

Will all doctors who decry tort lawyers when said tort lawyers sue them please refrain from condemning Wal-Mart in this instance?

Posted by: From Inwood at December 7, 2008 3:21 PM

i believe wal-mart should pay the family of the poor man who was trampled by the ignorant mob.only reason is it's impossible to tell who done the evil deed,it's just a sad thing ,people are very greedy .if your reading this and you were one of the herd then you live with guilt if your human.yes wal-mart should pay cause their partly to blame,pay funeral and some money for the parents for their loss

Posted by: jimboplyr625 at December 8, 2008 11:10 AM

I am having a problem with the logic here. So because the police have a problem identifying which person's actually did the killing; we sure Wal-Mart because it is their store? What logic is that? Say someone walks into a Starbucks and shoots another patron but they escapes so fast no one can identify him. We sue Starbuck's? Huh?

Posted by: Lee at December 8, 2008 12:16 PM

That wasn't the logic I was using, anyway. I think the mob AND Wal-Mart bear responsibility for his death, not that Wal-Mart should be responsible because of the difficulty of suing the mob. If you don't think Walmart bears any responsibility, then that is where we part company.

Given that you said that we should looking to make the individuals in the mob accountable for their actions, I merely pointed out that that would be very difficult to prove.

Posted by: MVH at December 8, 2008 12:31 PM

I think Wal-Mart is liable if they put their employees in foreseeable, dangerous situations for which they have neither the training nor the resources to keep themselves safe. If they could reasonably have forseen that their was a danger here (which I think they should have), and if they didn't have enough security (one non-security person with no training doesn't seem like enough to me no matter how big he is), then I'd say it's reasonable to hold them accountable.

That doesn't mean WalMart is as much to blame as the people who did the trampling, but I do think it meant they didn't meet their responibilities as an employer.

Posted by: Jerry at December 8, 2008 1:30 PM

Crank

A non-lawyer friend of mine asked me for my thoughts on this, as a lawyer. Being lazy & recognizing that you had zeroed in on the issue in a far more pithy packed manner that I could, I sent your comment to him & he, who had never heard of this lawyers' term before, asked if "Deep Pocket" was the first name (notice I didn't say "Christian" name as we used to say before PC days) of the Indian-American, um sage who feels (notice I didn't say "thinks") that the U.S. is responsible for the Mumbai, um incident.

I told my friend that he was a racist; anyone poking fun of, or worse, saying disparaging things about anyone other than a White Male, here Deepak, is, ipso facto, a racist.


Posted by: From Inwood at December 8, 2008 5:23 PM

OK, I am fine with pursuing Wal-Mart as contributor BUT first find and try the people who actually did the killing. No matter what it takes or how hard it is. I am afraid the easy way out will be taken and the real killers will not be pursued.

Posted by: Lee at December 8, 2008 5:26 PM
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