Falling Merchandise - $825,000 Awarded For Emotional Distress - Rocky Mountain News

$825,OOO awarded for emotional distress

Wal-Mart previously was ordered to pay man $2.8 million

As seen in the Rocky Mountain News
By: Sue Lindsay - Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer

A Denver jury awarded $825,000 in damages for emotional distress Monday to a Pine Junction man who was injured when heavy boxes fell on his head at a Wal-Mart store in 1994.

Phillip Scharrel was to have received $2.8 million for physical impairment, economic loss and emotional distress, which the jury awarded him in 1995 after a Denver District Court trial. But an appeals court rejected $1 million of that award for emotional distress damages and sent the case back for retrial on that issue.

On Monday, a different district court jury awarded him the $825,000 for emotional distress. Scharrel suffered head injuries when two 40-pound ice augers fell 10 feet, striking him on the head at a Littleton Wal-Mart store. He had been the owner of an air-conditioning and heating business. He now suffers from a minor brain injury.

The accident happened when an employee lost his footing on a ladder and knocked the boxes loose. "Wal-Mart and other retail shopping establishments have to take responsibility for the injuries that happen in their stores," said attorney' Molly Homan. Mart dragged this case out for years and ended up in essentially the same place they were with the verdict in 1995."

Defense attorney Jamey, on said Wal-Mart believe previous award was sufficient.

"Obviously we're disappointed," Jamison said. "The guy's already been awarded $2.8 million by a previous jury which is a substantial award."

"Mr. Scharrel believes that Wal-Mart needs to fix its merchandising practices," Homan said.

"If this case gets them a step closer to doing that, he's happy."

Mike Maher, a spokesman in Bentonville, Ark., where Wal-Mart is based, said the accident was unfortunate and caused by unusual circumstances.

"...We are disappointed with the verdict and the jury award. We believe he deserves some compensation, but not in the inflated amount the jury returned."

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