Posted on Aug 17, 2006
Jury awards woman shot in Wal-Mart $4.2 million
By Daniel Silliman
A woman who was shot in the chest with a .308 pistol in the Riverdale Wal-Mart parking lot in 2001 was awarded $4.2 million from Wal-Mart by a Clayton County State Court jury.
Katoria Lee stopped into the Wal-Mart at 7050 Highway 85 on the way home from the Ford Motor plant in Hapeville on March 8, 2001, when 17-year-old Eric Riggins shot her in the chest and stole her 2000 Ford Explorer. Riggins, a Jonesboro resident, was arrested driving Lee’s car, convicted of the crime and is now serving a 15-year sentence for the shooting and carjacking.
Lee, 35, survived the gunshot wound and today lives with restricted movement in her right arm, permanent nerve damage on the right side of her chest and chronic pain, her attorney Lance Cooper said.
Wal-Mart was ordered to pay damages in a civil suit.
“This is exactly what Wal-Mart should have expected,” Cooper said. He argued Wal-Mart should have had security in the parking lot and should have known violent crimes had occurred and would occur on their property. He presented the jury with 39 car thefts and aggravated assaults in the Riverdale Wal-Mart’s parking lot during the two years before Lee was shot.
“The jury was influenced primarily by the number of crimes there,” Cooper said. “Wal-Mart’s defense was they had no notice that a shooting would occur.”
The Riverdale Wal-Mart had closed circuit security cameras, but no guards outside the store.
The store gave the tapes to police for the trial of Riggins, but had destroyed them before the civil suit.
Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley said that Wal-Mart is disappointed in the jury’s verdict but couldn’t comment any further because the retailer is considering an appeal.
All Wal-Mart stores have plain-clothed security guards inside the store, Simley said. Some stores have security in the parking lot if they meet the company’s crime rate criteria , Simley said. He did not know if any changes had been made to the Riverdale store’s security since the shooting in 2001.
Reached by phone, an assistant manager at the Riverdale store declined on Thursday to comment about whether any security changes have been made at the store.