Pennsylvania Record

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Wal-Mart sued for allegedly failing to come to aid of accosted family

By Jon Campisi | Jan 16, 2014

Larry a. weisberg

A Pennsylvania woman is suing the retail giant Wal-Mart in federal court

in Harrisburg over allegations that employees didn’t do enough to protect her and her family from attacking customers.

Dawn E. DuBois, who resides in Adams County, filed suit in U.S. District Court on Jan. 13 against Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores East LP over an Oct. 14, 2013, incident at the Wal-Mart store located at 6535 Grayson Road in Harrisburg.

On that date, the plaintiff and her husband and child arrived at the checkout area when they witnessed two other female customers who were yelling vulgarities at the cashier.

The two women were apparently known to store employees as troublemakers.

The plaintiff’s husband soon spoke up because the couple was accompanied by their young son, the lawsuit states.

When the husband asked the two women to refrain from using vulgarities around children, the women began yelling at the plaintiff and her family, “getting right in their faces, and physically threatening them,” the complaint reads.

While DuBois and her family members were being accosted by the two customers, they made numerous requests for assistance from store security or management, but nobody immediately came to their aid, the lawsuit states.

The suit even says that during the confrontation, a crowd gathered around the plaintiff and her family, which included store employees, but nobody came to the plaintiffs’ assistance.

“Defendant’s employees and management had actual knowledge of a dangerous situation which was developing wherein [the two customers] were physically threatening Plaintiff and her family, and failed to take any action to assist Plaintiff and her family,” the complaint states. “After the confrontation was allowed to continue without any intervention from Defendant’s employees and/or agents, one of the women chest bumped Plaintiff and kicked Plaintiff as hard as she could in the stomach, causing serious injuries to Plaintiff.”

The complaint says that the defendant owed a duty to DuBois and her husband and son, who were business invitees of the store, to take steps to prevent the attack when the defendant became aware of the “imminent danger” to the family.

It wasn’t until after the attack that store employees called police, who subsequently charged the two women with disorderly conduct.

DuBois ended up having to go to the hospital where she was diagnosed as having a hematoma, which the lawsuit says was evidenced by a “large, unsightly, painful bruise on her mid-section.”

The plaintiff suffered physical, emotional and economic injuries as a result of the incident, the complaint alleges.

The suit contains a count of negligence in which Wal-Mart is accused of failing to provide protection and/or adequate assistance to DuBois and her family as they were being accosted and attacked by the other customers.

Randy Hargrove, a corporate spokesman for Wal-Mart, told the Patriot-News of Harrisburg that while the company hadn’t yet seen the lawsuit, officials did investigate the incident and determine that management at the Pennsylvania store responded quickly and contacted law enforcement upon learning of the alleged altercation.

“The safety of our customers and our associates is important to us,” Hargove was quoted as saying.

DuBois is seeking damages in excess of $75,000, plus costs and other court relief.

The suit was filed by attorneys Larry A. Weisberg and Derrek W. Cummings, of the Harrisburg firm McCarthy Weisberg Cummings P.C.

The federal case number is 1:14-cv-00051-CCC.

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