Charlotte man wins $2.2 million in suit Wal-Mart held liable for falling merchandise
The award arises from a January 1991 accident in which Louis Kilgo opened the door to his tractor-trailer at a Fayetteville store. An avalanche of fax paper and other goods loaded by Sam's Club employees knocked him unconscious.
Eight years and four surgeries later, he says he can't hold a job and struggles with mood swings, numb fingers and memory lapses from brain and neck injuries.
After a nine-day trial, a jury in Mecklenburg Superior Court on Friday decided in Kilgo's favor, holding Sam's Club and its parent company, Wal-Mart, responsible for his injuries.
The huge verdict marked the latest multimillion dollar victory for Jeffrey Hyman, a Colorado lawyer who has made a living the past six years suing Wal-Mart and other superstores on behalf of customers and employees bopped on the head by falling power drills, toys and pet food, among other things.
Now 51, Kilgo declined comment on the case
Sunday. His wife, Carole, said she hoped Sam's Club and Wal-Mart
would be safer about transporting and stocking goods.
Wal-Mart plans to appeal. The Arkansas-based retailer's lawyers have argued that since Kilgo drove for National Freight Inc., either he or his employer should take responsibility.
Wal-Mart spokesman Betsy Reithemeyer questioned the amount of the award.
Hyman has been called the Marvin Mitchelson
of falling-merchandise lawsuits - Mitchelson being the famous
California divorce lawyer. Hyman parachuted into the Charlotte
case at the request of the Kilgos' local attorney, Karen Zaman,
who heard about Hyman through a colleague who saw a story about
him on the syndicated television show "Inside Edition."
Hyman suggested that, unlike some "trip-and-fall"
lawsuit plaintiffs, falling-merchandise victims are hard for
corporate lawyers to brand as gold-diggers or blame for injuries.
Hyman has notched several high-dollar verdicts against Wal-Mart and other giant retail stores, including a confidential settlement reached in December for a woman conked on the head by a toy truck at the Wal-Mart store off Arrowood Road.
The jury in the Kilgo case wasn't impressed. Jurors deliberated for less than three hours before reaching their verdict late Friday.
They awarded Louis Kilgo $2 million and gave his wife $225,000 for what his lawsuit called "loss of her husband's society and services and loss of
her conjugal rights."
Hyman on Sunday headed for California, where another Wal-Mart lawsuit awaits.
The Kilgos say they were just trying to get on with life.
"We struggled and battled with it since 1991," Carole Kilgo said. "I was just pleased that justice and truth won out."
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