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State high court rules against Wal-Mart in negligence case

State high court rules against Wal-Mart in negligence case

The Idaho Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of a woman who alleged negligence by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. after she was injured slipping in a Wal-Mart store.

Clarifying an April ruling and reversing a lower court ruling that had granted summary judgement to Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the state high court ruled that there were disputed facts in the case that should be considered at trial and remanded the case for further proceedings.

In a majority ruling in Brooks v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the Boise-based court determined that the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retail giant could have known a dangerous condition existed in one of its stores when the plaintiff, Diane Brooks, slipped in a puddle of water and suffered an injury to her left knee that required surgery, according to court records.

According to the ruling, Ms. Brooks visited a Wal-Mart store in Boise in 2013 to buy bags of woodchips for her yard when she slipped in a puddle of water close to a Rug Doctor self-service kiosk in the store.

Wal-Mart had a vendor agreement with Plano, Texas-based Rug Doctor L.L.C. that allowed the company to offer its carpet-cleaning machine services in its stores.

“In a subsequent investigation, Wal-Mart documented that Brooks slipped on a puddle of water that had apparently originated from the Rug Doctor kiosk,” the ruling states.

While Wal-Mart had a slip and fall policy in place of the time of the incident, court records said the retailer “did not keep records to document the work done by its maintenance associates, nor did its employees document any spills that they may have seen, or that they may have cleaned up.”

“Landowners are charged with a superior knowledge of their premises and the possible dangers located there, as compared with their invitees,” the ruling states. But Wal-Mart had failed to inquire of Rug Doctor whether their machines could leak, it said.

In addition, Wal-Mart employees could have noticed the spill prior to the accident, based on their training and “clean-as-you-go” maintenance policy, the ruling states.

Video evidence shows that a Wal-Mart employee walked past the area where the spill was located about five minutes prior to Ms. Brooks accident. “A reasonable jury could find that this Wal-Mart employee, exercising reasonable care, should have discovered the hazard,” the ruling states.

Wal-Mart said in a statement: “The Idaho Supreme Court clarified its ruling from April which returned the case to district court. We continue to dispute the claims and will defend the company against them.”