Update: West Virginia Supreme Court affirms $16.9m verdict in case against Walmart
The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia affirmed the Wood County Circuit Court’s rulings and judgment order on Wednesday in a case that resulted in a 2019 jury verdict of $16,922,000 involving Walmart and its failure to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition when attempting to apprehend a shoplifter in February 2015 which led to injuries to one of its customers, Diane Ankrom.
That verdict is believed to be one of the largest, if not the largest, verdicts in the history of Wood County on behalf of a single plaintiff. Walmart appealed the verdict, but the Supreme Court found that the Circuit Court had not committed any error in the case. Justice Elizabeth D.Walker, who delivered the Opinion of the Court, wrote that “[Walmart’s] arguments are no more persuasive on appeal than they were below.” Jamie Bordas of the Wheeling-based law firm of Bordas & Bordas who served as lead counsel for the plaintiff at trial and presented the Oral Argument before the Supreme Court commented, “It was truly an honor and a privilege to be able to fight for justice for Diane Ankrom. We are pleased that the Supreme Court recognized through Justice Walker’s detailed and scholarly analysis that the jury and judge who heard the case got it right. When you are taking on a large corporation like Walmart, it is never an easy task. However, Diane had the courage to do this and we are happy that we were able to help her achieve this outcome.”
Bordas was assisted at trial by Wood County attorney Todd Wiseman. Wiseman noted “Diane has had over 20 hospital admissions, numerous surgeries, and millions of dollars in medical bills as a result of her injuries. Although she will suffer life-long effects from this incident, this will help to provide for her many medical and caretaking needs.”Phillip Sbrolla and Matthew Schrebe of the Pittsburgh-based law firm of Cipriani & Werner defended Walmartat trial. Jeff Wakefield of Charleston-based Flaherty Sensabaugh& Bonasso and Elbert Lin of Hunton Andrews Kurth in Richmond, VA represented Walmart on appeal.
A major jury award, involving an incident at a local Walmart, is expected to be appealed to the West Virginia Supreme Court.
At a hearing Monday in Wood County Circuit Court, attorneys for the retail giant said they would appeal the jury award'. That, after Judge J.D. Beane denied their motion to set aside the judgment and order a new trial.
A jury earlier this year awarded $16.9 million to a Mineral Wells woman who was struck and seriously injured by a shopping cart a the South Side Walmart.
It happened while store employees were chasing a suspected shoplifter.
The company's attorneys have 30 days to appeal the jury's decision.
In a hearing Monday before Wood County Circuit Judge J.D. Beane, Walmart attorneys objected to the verdict handed down in March by a Wood County jury-believed to be one of the largest in history.
This, as attorneys for plaintiff Diane Ankrom filed a motion allowing the entry of the judgment order in the case.
Walmart says, since it was found 30% liable, and a shoplifter employees were chasing when Ankrom was injured found to be 70% liable, the company should not be liable for the entire judgment.
"We believe West Virginia law is contrary to WalMart's position; that the law that exists at the time this lawsuit was filed clearly gives Ms. Ankrom the right and the opportunity to have the entire judgment returned against WalMart," said Ankrom's attorney, Jamie Bordas. "That's the only corporation she sued. That was the only defendant."
Attorney Bordas says Walmart could choose to pursue its own damages against the alleged shoplifter in the incident.
Judge Beane is considering the motion by Ankrom's attorney to file the judgment order.
A jury in Wood County Circuit Court has returned a $16.9 million verdict in a local woman’s lawsuit against Walmart.
It’s believed to be one of the largest verdicts in favor of a single plaintiff in the county's history.
Diane Ankrom, 52, of Mineral Wells, was injured in February 2015 as employees at the south Parkersburg Walmart tried to apprehend a man suspected of shoplifting.
Ankrom’s attorney, Jamie Bordas, of Wheeling-based Bordas and Bordas, said Ankrom suffered severe abdominal injuries when she was knocked to the ground and struck by a shopping cart. Her injuries required multiple surgeries and more than 20 hospital admissions, he said.
Jurors deliberated for less than two hours before reaching a verdict in the five-day-long trial in Judge J.D. Beane's court.
The verdict includes $6.5 million in past and future medical expenses and $10 million in general damages. Jurors also determined Walmart to be 30 percent responsible and the shoplifter to be 70 percent responsible.
"We are hopeful that this jury's verdict sends a message to large corporations that they are not supposed to put profits over safety," Bordas said in a news release. "The shoplifter in this incident had merely stolen gloves and had already given them back before Walmart persisted in attempting to detain him in an inappropriate manner that ultimately led to one of its customers being injured."
A Walmart spokesman said that while the company recognizes the severity of Ankrom's injuries, it stands by the actions of its employees.
"We are sympathetic to Ms. Ankrom and what she experienced in our store," said Randy Hargrove, senior director of national media relations for the company. "However, we strongly believe our associates did nothing wrong and followed company policy. "The jury’s verdict is not supported by the evidence as we believe the actions of the shoplifter were the sole cause of Ms. Ankrom’s injuries."
Hargrove said Walmart is evaluating its options, which include filing post-trial motions and an appeal.