Walmart Wrongful Death Trial Begins

Posted by msch on Jan 31, 2011 11:44:00 AM

Attorneys Mont Tanner and Rob Phillips and Craig DelkSmith v. Walmart involves a claim that Walmart and its courtesy patrol service, Wackenhut, failed to provide adequate security for the parking lot in which a Walmart customer, Michael Born, was murdered during a robbery.

Plaintiff attorney Mont Tanner told a Las Vegas jury that in the three years prior to the assault, the store had 2,683 service calls to the police department, including 17 calls for burglaries into vehicles, 56 for stolen vehicles, 15 for assault and battery, 15 for robbery, and five for possession of a deadly weapon. The store itself had 31 burglaries and 50 grand larcenies. "In summary...the police were called to this location on a vehicle that was either stolen or burglarized every other week. The police were called at a rate of just over one crime against person every four weeks. The police were called for just over one crime of felony theft every other week. The police were called on average over three times a day in the one year prior to the robbery and assault of Michael Born."

Mr. Born had visited Walmart at 10pm to purchase a headlamp for his vehicle. He was installing the new headlamp in the Walmart parking lot when the assault occurred. According to Mr. Tanner, signs in the parking lot correctly indicated that surveillance or security cameras were in use, but the cameras were merely "scarecrow security" and were never monitored.

Mr. Tanner also said that the perpetrator, Raymond Garrett, had spent twelve minutes on the property stalking customers, with no apparent interest in shopping, but Walmart's patrol service, Wackenhut, failed to warn Mr. Born not to do a repair in the parking lot, failed to respond to Mr. Garrett's presence, was not trained to assess crime risks, and did not have a telephone.

For Walmart, Rob Phillips, of Phillips, Spallas, & Angstadt, said that Mr. Garrett was a sociopath, whose random attack was neither predictable nor preventable. Moreover, Mr. Garrett's behavior was not suspicious or noteworthy, and Walmart could not have responded to it. Finally, the Walmart in question was not a "crime bed."

Instead, twelve to fifteen thousand people per day visited the Walmart, which was considered a "safe haven" in a rather tough area. According to Mr. Phillips, Mr. Garrett had committed many assaults, but the reason he was behind bars now was because one of those assaults was at a Walmart, which had security cameras. But, "a reasonably prudent person put in the same position that Walmart was in could not have done anything that would have prevented this random and callous and heartless and chaotic, nonsensical, opportunistic, snap-in-time event."

For Wackenhut, Craig Delk, of Thorndal, Amstrong, Delk, Balkenbush, & Eisinger, told the jury that Wackenhut's job was to provide visible presence, which has a significant security effect. But the kind of criminal activity that occurred in this case was unavoidable could not have been deterred.

Wackenhut's on-site traditional security officer (TSO) received proper TSO training, not police training. Wackenhut's officer was not to be armed and was not to intervene. His job was to observe and report. The officer did have a radio to Wackenhut dispatch, but the officer's total time of interaction with Mr. Garrett was maybe 8 seconds, so he had no basis upon which to report anything. "There is simply no causal connection whatever," said Mr. Delk, "between my client's activities on this parking lot on that night, and what happened shortly after 10:30 [to Mr. Born]... "Raymond Garrett is the guilty party here...not Walmart or Wackenhut." 

CVN webcast Smith v. Walmart live.

Topics: Smith v. Walmart, Negligence, Real Estate