The shopping extravaganza known as Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving – has become deadly in the past few years. In 2008, shoppers stormed the doors of a Long Island Walmart, trampling a store employee to death and injuring four others. Similar deaths have occurred every year, including a 2010 incident in Buffalo in which a man was trampled at a Target store. Shopping frenzy has also resulted in assaults, threats of violence, shootings and stabbings.
When incidents like this occur, is anyone responsible? Do the stores bear responsibility for determination of shoppers to obtain a great deal? Are retailers required to provide trained crowd control experts? In short, who pays?
In some states, the family of the employee who died could file a worker’s compensation death claim and Walmart or any retailer might also bear responsibility for failing to protect the employee. There could be a civil tort claim against the people who caused the stampede, if they could be identified. In cases involving shootings and stabbings, the people with weapons could be held liable, although most liability insurance policies limit the coverage available for such claims. Victims might be able to receive compensation from the New York State Office of Victim Services.
In 2009, Walmart agreed to create a victim compensation fund, hire high school students and donate $1.5 million to the community. The settlement allowed Walmart and its shoppers to avoid criminal prosecution. However, Walmart fought and lost a legal battle. The company reportedly spent millions of dollars fighting the $7,000 fine.
Additionally, the family of the employee killed in the Walmart stampede filed a wrongful death claim against the giant retailer, its security company and the mall where the incident occurred.
Source: The Christian Post, ” Black Friday 2011: Stampedes and Shootings Mark ‘Deadly’ Day of Discounts”, Nov. 2, 2011.