April Jones said she was walking by some pallets inside a South Carolina Walmart in 2015 when she felt a sharp pain in her foot.
After three separate amputations, Jones lost most of her right leg. She has been in a wheelchair for six years and, according to her lawyers, “her daily life was significantly interrupted.”
Jones sued Walmart, and last month, a jury in South Carolina’s Florence County awarded her $10 million in damages to cover past and future medical bills.
“The jury sent a message to Walmart that if you come into Florence County and injure one of their own, they will make sure that person is taken care of,” Roy Willey IV, one of Jones’s lawyers, said in a statement announcing the verdict. “We are forever grateful.”
Randy Hargrove, a Walmart spokesman, told The Washington Post the company has already filed post-trial motions with the court.
“Walmart works hard to help ensure that all customers have a safe experience shopping in our stores,” Hargrove said. “We appreciate the jury’s service, however we do not believe the verdict is supported by the evidence or that Ms. Jones’ injury resulted from what was alleged in her complaint.”
The jury was the second to award a multimillion payout to a Walmart customer in recent weeks. Jurors in Alabama’s Mobile County awarded a woman $2.1 million in damages on Monday after she sued Walmart over a 2016 incident in which she was arrested and falsely accused of stealing groceries she bought using one of the store’s self-checkout lanes, AL.com reported.
Jones was walking down an aisle in a Florence Walmart on June 26, 2015, when she spotted several pallets, according to her 2017 lawsuit. She then felt pain in her right foot and heard a scraping sound under her shoe.
She saw a nail had gone through her sandal and alerted Walmart staff, according to court documents. The store, the lawsuit alleged, created dangerous conditions staff “knew or should have known” were unsafe for customers.
Jones went to the emergency room, where her foot was soaked and cleaned, according to court records. She got a tetanus shot and a prescription for antibiotics before she left.
When she followed up with a doctor days later, however, she was told one of her toes needed to be amputated because of an infection. After that procedure, Jones said, a doctor recommended the removal of more toes.
Doctors later recommended Jones have a portion of her foot amputated, according to court records. She said she declined that surgery and began seeing a podiatrist and having a home nurse tend to her foot daily. Then, about eight months after Jones was wounded, according to court records, she said she woke up and found her foot was black.
She returned to the hospital and eventually had her leg amputated above the knee. Jones was hospitalized for about a week before going to rehabilitation for close to a month.
The pain from Jones’s injuries “has resulted in her loss of enjoyment of life and change in her personality, all to the permanent detriment to her health and physical wellbeing,” her lawsuit states. In a 2018 deposition, Jones said being in a wheelchair affects her ability to play with her grandchildren and participate in church activities.
“I was supposed to actually go to Disney World with my grandson … but I won’t be going,” she said, adding that someone would need to push her wheelchair around the park. “I feel it would … lessen the fun for everybody else and I don’t want that.”
Walmart attorneys have argued in court documents that Jones “wholly failed to establish that Walmart placed the nail on the floor or that Walmart knew or reasonably should have known of the presence of the nail on the floor.” The type of nail found in Jones’s foot was too short to fasten pallet boards, the company’s attorneys wrote.
“The mere presence of a wood pallet on the sales floor is not circumstantial evidence that Walmart put a roofing nail on the floor,” they argued in court records.
The jury deliberated for about an hour and a half before returning with the $10 million verdict, Jones’s lawyers said.
The money, according to her lawyers, will allow Jones to make her home handicap accessible, purchase prosthetics and cover other medical expenses.