MOUNT VERNON -- The Fifth District Appellate Court has reversed former Madison County Circuit Judge John Barberis’ order granting summary judgment for Wal-Mart, which found that the store was not negligent in a woman’s case alleging she was attacked in the parking lot.
Justice Melissa A. Chapman delivered the Rule 23 decision on April 27 with Justices Richard P. Goldenhersh and James R. Moore concurring.
The appellate court found that plaintiff Carol Levart provided sufficient evidence to prove the extent of her injuries after she was the victim of an attempted robbery in a Granite City Wal-Mart parking lot on Christmas Eve in 2014.
Levart filed her complaint in March 2016 against Wal-Mart and the Granite City store's manager, Anitra McIntyre, in Madison County Circuit Court.
In her complaint, Levart alleges she went to the Granite City Wal-Mart with her brother to do some last-minute Christmas shopping. They arrived approximately 30 minutes before the store was scheduled to close for Christmas Eve. When she got inside the store, she realized she left her shopping list in her brother’s truck and returned to the vehicle alone to retrieve the list.
Levart claims there were no lights on in the parking lot. When she approached the truck in the middle of the lot, a man she did not know approached her and asked if she had any money to give him. When she told him she did not, the man grabbed her purse from her shoulder “with full force.”
Levart alleges she instinctively punched the man in the face to stop the theft. He ran away and the plaintiff fell to the ground. She claims she injured her hand, wrist and shoulder as she tried to break her fall.
In her complaint, the plaintiff argues that the defendants should have warned her about a possible assailant and taken steps to guard her against the danger.
Wal-Mart argued that it did not owe a duty to protect Levart against any potential criminal acts because they were not reasonably foreseeable. The defendant added that it could not predict dangers to its customers in the parking lot. Wal-Mart was granted summary judgment. Levart appealed.
According to the appellate court decision, Levart offered proof of prior incidents involving three women who were robbed in the same parking lot in addition to her own attempted robbery.
The appellate court held that Levart's incident could have been prevented had the store foreseen the danger.
The court also found that because Wal-Mart was aware of previous incidents of physical assault in its parking lot, as well as the nearly inevitable "high risk of personal injury" when an assailant makes physical contact with a victim, the defendant should have been able to predict that a similar crime would take place on its property, especially during the holiday season.
“For the reasons stated, we reverse the order of the court granting summary judgment in favor of the defendants, and we remand this matter to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this decision,” Chapman wrote.