The Colorado Supreme Court has upheld an award of nearly $10 million to a commercial truck driver who sued Walmart after she slipped and fell in the parking lot of a northern Colorado branch while making a delivery in December 2007.
Holly Averyt, 41, of Cheyenne, Wyoming, alleged in her lawsuit against the retail giant that a containment device designed to prevent the store’s deli grease from entering the sewer overflowed, creating a 185-foot slick in the parking lot and truck ramp area. Ms. Averyt’s lawsuit claimed Walmart allowed the oil slick to accumulate for seven days.
Since her fall in the Greeley, Colorado, parking lot, Ms. Averyt has undergone three spinal surgeries to correct injuries to her neck and back and has accumulated half a million dollars in medical bills. Ms. Averyt alleges her injures prevented her from returning to work and caused her to lose her truck.
A jury awarded Ms. Averyt $15 million in damages last November, but Walmart appealed the judgment, saying that Averyt’s lawyers failed to disclose relevant city documents. A lower court granted the company a new trial, calling the award “excessive” and a result of “the jury’s desire to punish Wal-Mart.”
The Colorado Supreme Court, however, overturned that ruling on Monday but reduced the award to $10 million, citing a state cap on non-economic damages. The Supreme Court said that Averyt’s lawyers were not required to disclose documents that are easily accessible in the public record.
According to the Associated Press, the Supreme Court “also said any prejudice the jury may have harbored toward the Bentonville, Ark., company was due to its initial refusal to produce evidence or admit the existence of the grease spill.”
“We respectfully disagree with the court’s opinion,” Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar said. “We’re continuing to focus on operating a safe shopping and working environment in all our stores.”