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Wal-Mart has case removed to federal court


Posted on Feb 17, 2008

Negligent defendants usually think they get a better resolution of cases filed against them when they can have their cases resolved in federal court. One possible reason is that in state court lawyers have more freedom to question jurors during the jury selection process. There are various other reasons why defendants would rather be in federal court.

For the same reasons lawyers for injured victims would rather have their cases tried in state courts.

The usual way that negligent defendants can avoid state court is by showing that the defendant is a "citizen" of a state other than the state in which the negligent victim lives. Lawyers call this "diversity of citizenship" and the "trick" usually works to give the defendant a free ride into federal court where they think judges treat them better.

Even though a large corporation may do business in every state in The Union, and may have hundreds of stores in North Carolina, federal judges will allow defendants to "pretend" that they are not "citizens" of the state in which it had done hundreds of millions of dollars in business every year. The corporate defendants argue that because they are incorporated in some other state (usually Delaware) that there is diversity of citizenship. By using this diversity of  citizenship argument, corporate defendants get their cases transferred to federal court.

In a recent case Wal-Mart was able to get the case filed against it in state court in Illinois transferred to federal court.

On January 10, a negligence suit over allegations of a man receiving personal injuries from a ladder falling on him against Wal-Mart was removed by the defendants to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

According to the complaint, filed on November 13, 2007, Wal-Mart was negligent in the maintenance of its dressing room for customers who are disabled. A ladder fell on Larry Collier, the plaintiff, causing personal injuries as a result of the alleged negligence. According to the complaint, a “metal rack, debris, containers, and bundles of plastic” were also part of the “dangerous condition.”

Collier argues that had it not been for the failure of Wal-Mart to warn or barricade the dressing room, the accident would have never taken place.

The nature of Collier’s injuries was not stated in the complaint, but he is seeking damages in excess of the jurisdictional minimum of $50,000 for each of the seven counts.

The same allegations have been brought against each of the seven defendants named in the suit: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Wal-Mart Real Estate Business Trust, Wal-Mart Associates, Inc., Wal-Mart.com USA, LLC, Wal-Mart Realty Company, Wal-Mart Stores East, Inc., and Wal-Mart Transportation, LLC.

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. responded by denying all allegations of liability. All of the other defendants have also denied liability in the incident as well as ownership, lease, management, operation, or control of the premises at which the incident occurred. In its answer, Wal-Mart also demanded a jury.

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