In one of West Virginia’s largest award verdicts involving a single plaintiff, a jury found a major big-box retailer 30% liable for an injury-causing incident. As reported by Metro News, the jury required under two hours to reach a decision regarding the serious internal trauma suffered by a customer during a shoplifter apprehension that went awry. 

After employees detained a shoplifter near the parking lot, they brought him back into the store to hold him until law enforcement officials arrived for an arrest. Once inside, however, he broke free, ran into a shopper’s cart and knocked the woman pushing it down to the floor. 

The fleeing shoplifter’s impact also caused the shopping cart to topple over the customer. Her intestines suffered traumatic and life-altering injuries requiring several surgeries and at least 20 hospital admissions. The injured woman must now live with a surgically created artificial opening in her abdominal wall and requires a specialized feeding regimen. 

The jury awarded the store’s customer a total of close to $17 million in damages, which includes compensation for her pain and suffering. The award also reflects coverage for the medical care and treatment the 52-year-old Mountain State resident requires for the rest of her life. 

As noted by WTAP 6 News, the lawsuit named the retailer as the sole defendant and argues that the company is responsible for 100% of the award verdict rather than an amount representing a 30% shared liability. 

The suit’s 100% liability assertion rests on the argument that the injuries would not have occurred if the retailer followed industry practices for properly detaining shoplifters. The company may also have demonstrated negligence by failing to train its employees to safely respond to in-store theft.