Thursday, November 10, 2022

The Dangers of Store Checkout Lines

In the case of Kovalev v. Wal-Mart, Inc., No. 2:2022-CV-1217 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 11, 2022 Quinones Alejandro, J.), the court granted a F.R.C.P. 12(b)(6)Motion to Dismiss in part and denied it in part in a premises liability case.

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff was allegedly injured when he was standing in a checkout line and a customer behind him started hitting the Plaintiff with her shopping cart while shouting "move the line."  The Plaintiff alleged, in part, that, even though security personnel had the ability to observe the incident via real-time surveillance in a security room several feet away, no one came to the aid of the Plaintiff at the time of the incident.    

After suit was initiated, the Defendant store filed a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss on various grounds.

The Plaintiff's claims against Wal-Mart for assault and battery were dismissed given the lack of any facts to support any allegations that the store intentionally harmed the Plaintiff.  Nor were there any facts to support an allegation that Wal-Mart was liable for the intentional acts of another patron in the store.

The court found that the Plaintiff’s claim that the store was negligent in failing to have sufficient security to prevent its customers from assaulting other customers did state a valid cause of action.  Here, the Plaintiff alleged that he was a business invitee of the store and that the store was negligent in protecting him from the intentional or criminal acts of a third person within the store.

However, the court also found that a negligence duty to provide security within a commercial establishment does not create a special relationship that would support a separate claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress. The court noted that such relationships exist only in extremely limited circumstances.

The court dismissed the Plaintiff's separate claim for "gross negligence" after finding that there is no separate cause of action for gross negligence recognized under Pennsylvania law.  

The court additionally found that negligence per se is not an independent cause of action.

In contrast, the court in this matter additionally ruled that there is civil cause of action recognized in Pennsylvania for recklessn endangerment. 

The court also ruled that, absent a civil cause of action for a particular act, there can be no cause of action for civil conspiracy to commit that act. The court also found that a negligence claim is not an intentional or criminal act that could support a separate civil conspiracy claim.

Lastly, the court also found that physical and emotional injuries do not support a cause of action under the Unfair Trade Practices & Consumer Protection Law, as that cause of action is limited to losses of money or property.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.  The Court's compantion Order can be viewed HERE.

I send thanks to Attorney James M. Beck of the Philadelphia office of the Reed Smith law firm for bringing this case to my attention.

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