August 29, 2012 South Carolina Court of Appeals published opinion

Roddey v Wal-Mart Stores East, LP 

A contractor for Wal-Mart pursued a customer suspected of shoplifting onto the highway in order to get her license tag number. The customer died in a car accident and the estate sued. The trial court granted a directed verdict to Wal-Mart. In a splintered decision, the panel affirmed. One judge argued that the command “do what you got to do” was evidence of negligence and the flight by the customer was foreseeable. He voted to affirm as the jury determined as a  matter of fact that eh customers actions during the flight were more responsible for the death than any acts of the contractor and because plaintiff’s who are more than 50% at fault are precluded form recovering as a matter of law. The concurring judge argued the pursuit was not a foreseeable consequence of the instruction to get the license tag number and thus there could be no proximate causation as a matter of law. The dissent argued that there was evidence of negligence and the pursuit was foreseeable. However, it argued that the jury determination as to the fault between the customer and the contractor did not prevent liability for Wal-Mart. It argued that viewed in then light most favorable to the customer, the decision to order the contractor to get the number and the failure to call of the pursuit when it left the parking lot in violation of their internal policies provided a basis for holding Wal-Mart breached their duty and the death was foreseeable in light of the reckless driving both customer and contractor were exhibiting. Finally, because there were allegations of direct liability, and a jury could find the plaintiff’s less than 50% responsible when those acts were part of the jury analysis, the apportionment of fault should not be given dispositive weight.

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