An Alabama man just received a $7.5 million payout from the highest-earning company in the world—all because of an improperly maintained display of fruit.
In June 2015, Henry Walker tried to grab a watermelon at a Phenix City Walmart. Moments later, he had a broken hip. According to court records cited by AL.com, Walker’s foot “got stuck in a wooden pallet on the floor,” while he reached for the fruit, “but his foot slid in a side opening on the pallet. When he tried to turn towards his buggy, Walker's foot got stuck and he fell.”
Walker, a once-athletic Army vet who now reportedly needs a walker to get around, filed a lawsuit after the incident alleging, among other things, that the mega retailer failed to “exercise reasonable care, to maintain, and keep its premises in a reasonable safe condition, and to warn the public of unsafe and hazardous conditions.” He argued that were the watermelons more easily reachable and the area on the floor unobstructed by the pallet, he would not have been injured.
Security footage from the store was submitted as evidence and clearly showed other customers getting stuck in the pallet, suggesting that Walker’s fall was not a clumsy or freak accident. Yesterday, the jury in the case sided with Walker and decided that he owed $2.5 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages.
"You don't expect to go into a grocery store walking fine on your two feet and come out on a stretcher," Walker’s lawyer Shaun O'Hara told AL.com, adding that the payout was “reasonable and hopefully will encourage the retailer to use pallet guards, like other grocers in the area.”
But Walker isn’t out of the woods just yet, as Walmart has taken issue with jury’s evaluation of damages. "We are disappointed in the verdict," Walmart told MUNCHIES in an e-mailed statement. "We appreciate the jury’s service, however we believe that the damages awarded were excessive in light of the facts in this case. We plan to appeal."
According to a court filing cited by the Associated Press, Walmart submitted that it "continues to display watermelons in the same manner as it did on June 25, 2015," and that they "come to the store from the producer already packaged and ready to be dropped and displayed."
Walmart's seedless watermelons currently have a rating of 2.3/5 stars on Walmart.com.