By Wayne D. Garris Jr., J.D.
The former part-time employee seeks over $1,000,000 for medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages.
On June 11, a 72-year old part-time Walmart employee sued the retail giant in a Texas state court alleging that she became infected with the coronavirus due to her employer’s failure to take measures to protect employees from exposure. According to the complaint, the employee left work early on April 22, 2020, after she wasn’t feeling well. Two days later, she was diagnosed with COVID-19 and was hospitalized for a week.
Given that Walmart knew or should have known by the first week in March 2020 about the risk of the coronavirus, but allegedly did nothing to protect employees, the employee claims that Walmart breached its duty to provide a safe working environment by: failing to provide PPE, failing to enforce social distancing measures, failing to warn employees of the potential risks of employment with respect to COVID-19, and failing to train employees on how to minimize the risk of infection.
No workers’ comp bar? Notably, the complaint alleges that the employee was in the course and scope of employment during COVID-19’s spread throughout the country, Texas, and Dallas County, and Walmart is (and was) a nonsubscriber under Texas Workers’ Compensation Act and did not carry a policy of workers’ compensation insurance covering the plaintiff. She alleges that under Texas law, the Walmart defendants will be deprived of “certain common law defenses, including, but not limited to asserting any comparative fault of Plaintiff, or that the Plaintiff assumed the risk of injury or hospitalization. She contends that Walmart’s alleged conduct constitutes negligence, gross negligence, and negligence per se.
The employee demands a jury trial and seeks damages for her medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages; punitive damages; and exemplary damages under Texas law for conduct “when viewed objectively from the standpoint of Defendants at the time of the occurrence, involved an extreme degree of risk, considering the probability and magnitude of the potential harm to others.”
Filed in the County Court of Dallas County, Texas, the case is Cross v. Walmart Inc., Case No. CC-20-02611-C.
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