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Wal-Mart Agrees to New Crowd-Control Measures After Trampling Death

By David Goguen | Last updated on

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has reached an agreement with a New York prosecutor's office, under which the company will pay about $2 million and implement new post-Thanksgiving crowd-control measures at all of its New York stores, in an effort to avoid "shopper stampede" incidents like the one that killed an employee at a Wal-Mart store in New York last year.

Under the deal announced today between the retail giant and New York's Nassau County District Attorney, Wal-Mart will also avoid prosecution in connection with the death of Jdimytai Damour, a 34-year-old employee at a Wal-Mart store in Valley Stream, N.Y.

On 2008's "Black Friday," the busy shopping day after Thanksgiving, Damour was trampled and died of asphyxiation after a "crowd burst through the store's front doors in a race to buy a limited assortment of discounted merchandise," according to the Wall Street Journal

In a statement on the agreement, a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. executive declared that the new crowd management plan "was developed by a team of experts whose experience includes NFL Super Bowls, Olympic Games, concerts and national political conventions", and is a "first-of-its-kind plan that incorporates proven crowd management techniques into the unique circumstances of a retail setting."

As part of the agreement, Wal-mart will also pay about $400,000 to compensate victims of the 2008 incident, and will donate $1.5 million to Nassau County social services programs and non-profits, the Associated Press reports.

The 'Premises Liability' Legal Theory. When someone is injured in a store or other commercial establishment like Wal-Mart, the company can be held responsible for the injuries under a legal theory called "premises liability". In most states that have adopted the premises liability theory for negligence that occurs on a business's property, a customer in a store is given "invitee" legal status, meaning that customers enjoy the highest level of legal protection for any accidental injury that occurs on store property.

In this case, as indicated by Wal-Mart's agreement to implement more effective crowd-control measures, the "premises liability" theory would extend to Wal-Mart's awareness of the injury risks posed by customers' stampeding through the store on particularly busy days, and its failure to properly address the problem and take steps to protect its customers and employees. (Learn more about Premises Liability cases.)  

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