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Colorado Supreme Court upholds $10M ruling against Wal-Mart in slip-and-fall injury


DENVER—The Colorado Supreme Court upheld a $10 million award to a truck driver who slipped and fell while making a delivery to a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. location.

The state high court in Denver overturned a lower court ruling that had granted Wal-Mart a new trial based on surprise, nondisclosure and a jury verdict that allegedly was not supported by evidence, according to court documents.

Commercial truck driver Holly Averyt in December 2007 slipped in grease while making a delivery to a Wal-Mart store in Greeley, Colo., injuring her spine, shoulder and neck and leaving her unable to work, according to court documents.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart initially denied the grease spill occurred but later argued that Ms. Averyt's attorney failed to disclose a city report detailing the spill and that the jury had been unfairly prejudiced by the late disclosure of the document.

The jury awarded Ms. Averyt $15 million but the amount was reduced to $10 million per Colorado's cap on noneconomic damages, according to court documents.

Ms. Averyt had no duty to disclose the city report to Wal-Mart because the report was a public document and the parties were “on equal footing with regard to the ability to obtain the report,” the three-judge Colorado Supreme Court panel wrote.

The court upheld the $10 million award because Ms. Averyt had no duty to disclose the document and therefore could not have prejudiced the jury.

“Any prejudice that the jury may have harbored was due to Wal-Mart's initial refusal to produce evidence of or admit the existence of the grease spill. Regardless of the effects of Wal-Mart's imprudent tactics, there is sufficient evidence in the record to support the jury's award,” the judges wrote.

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