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Retailer must face negligence claim in parking lot robbery


Dollar Tree Stores Inc. may have had a duty to protect a customer who was injured during a robbery in its parking lot based on history including a prior armed robbery, says a federal appeals court, in reversing a lower court ruling.

In November 2014, Susan Simpson was accosted as she approached her car in the parking lot of Monroe, Louisiana-store operated by Chesapeake, Virginia-based Dollar Tree, according to court papers in Susan Simpson, Jerry Simpson v. Dollar Tree Stores Inc.

The robber hit her in the head or ear with a pistol, knocking her to the ground, took her purse and escaped by running through a broken gate, according to court papers. He was never identified or apprehended.

The Simpsons sued Dollar Tree for negligence, alleging the retailer was liable for the injuries Simpson had received. The U.S. District Court in Monroe dismissed the suit, which a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. District Court of Appeals in New Orleans unanimously reinstated in Thursday’s ruling.

The Simpsons have alleged facts “which, if proved, might show that the Dollar Tree store was aware of a foreseeable risk of violent crime to its customers,” said the ruling.

These facts include the store’s practice of escorting or watching female employees to their cars at night and providing an escort to customers, even if unasked; the assistant manager’s requests to install security cameras; the question of whether the store ever employed security personnel; and a prior armed robbery.

The case was remanded to the lower court for further proceedings.