The Tennessee Supreme Court has recently ruled in favor of holding business owners more strictly accountable for the safety of customers on their property by allowing a woman injured in a Wal-Mart parking lot to proceed with her negligence lawsuit against the superstore.
In February 2011, the plaintiff, 38-year-old Jolyn Cullum, went into a Wal-Mart near Chattanooga to buy some groceries. She finished her shopping, checked out and began putting the bags in the trunk of her car. Unbeknownst to her, at the same time another woman had tried to purchase prescriptions at the store’s pharmacy, but was denied service because she was intoxicated.
When asked to leave the store, the inebriated women then got in her car and backed out without looking behind her—knocking Cullum to the pavement, where she was crushed by her empty shopping cart and pinned in between two cars. Cullum screamed, but the intoxicated woman did not hear her and kept going until a bystander stopped her. She then got out of the vehicle and tried to move Cullum, causing her further injury and pain.
Cullum and her husband sued both the drunken woman and Wal-Mart in civil court for negligence, arguing that Wal-Mart failed to provide a safe environment for her by not calling the police or preventing the defendant from driving while intoxicated.
The case against Wal-Mart was initially dismissed by a trial court, but the Cullums appealed the case and won, which sent it to the Tennessee Supreme Court. Now, Jolyn Cullum has been permitted to proceed in suing Wal-Mart for inadequate security (https://www.sidgilreath.com/inadequate-security.html).
Until this ruling last December, store owners in Tennessee had no legal obligation to prevent their patrons from driving drunk. Existing premises liability law demands that businesses clean up spills in a timely manner and remove obstacles that could cause injury, but this is the first case where the responsibility to protect customers has extended to drinking and driving.
“Business owners who have clients on their property have a duty to protect customers from known dangers,” a local personal injury attorney told reporters. “If Wal-Mart knows they have an intoxicated person there and there are other customers around, it has a duty to let others know about it.”
Although the Supreme Court maintains that their ruling on Jolyn Cullum’s negligence claim against Wal-Mart is limited to the facts of this specific case, its verdict to allow civil action to continue will likely be used as a precedent for other premises liability cases as well. This could mean that business owners in the state will now have a greater duty to protect their customers from foreseeable harm.
Wrongful Death or Injury Due to Inadequate Security
If you or a loved one were the victim of a crime or accident occurring on the premises of a store, apartment complex, hotel, restaurant or other place of business, you will require expert legal council to determine if negligence or inadequate security measures contributed to your loss.
Learn more about premises liability and see if you have a case by contacting a Tennessee inadequate security lawyer at Gilreath & Associates today.