Are Wal-Mart’s Safe? The World’s No. 1 Retailer’s Negligent Security Problems
In the article, Marlowe discusses how Wal-Mart is well aware of the frequent crime that takes place on properties across the country. The Haggard Law attorney litigated a case against the world’s number 1 retailer where a woman was kidnapped from a Wal-Mart parking lot and brutally raped in her kidnapper’s vehicle over several hours and miles of driving.
The text of the article as it appears in the Daily Business Review:
Violent crime at Wal-Mart is more pervasive and grotesque than any of the most recent headline-grabbing viruses ever will be.
From Florida to California and everywhere in between, headlines in cities large and small are swollen with frightening accounts of domestic, opportunistic terrorism in Wal-Mart parking lots. Armed robbery, rape, kidnapping, murder and countless other felonious crimes have plagued Wal-Mart’s customers for decades. I have represented some of the most horribly assaulted victims of violent crime one could imagine, and yet it is a case involving a client of mine at a Wal-Mart that left one of the more disturbing impressions upon me.
In a bucolic, suburban Florida town, a young lady was beaten, bound and kidnapped, all in daylight hours, at her local Wal-Mart parking lot. Her savaging happened only yards from where the employee-designated smoking shed was located outside the entrance. After being hogtied and overwhelmed with violence for almost 10 minutes, the car visibly shaking back and forth on closed-circuit television, her attacker had her under control. Along Interstate 10, he drove her for hours, pulling over periodically to rape her on the side of the road, before resuming his journey toward Jacksonville with her cowering in the front seat.
Bloomberg News did an extensive study of police and media reports, discovering that Wal-Mart’s crime epidemic is not a function of its footprint or the nature of its business. Calls for police service to Targets and other similar retailers pale in comparison to those of Wal-Mart on every relevant metric. Most recently in Sunrise, a Wal-Mart employee shot a would-be-robber to death Sept. 24 in a 24-hour Wal-Mart parking lot. Earlier in the week, a Kansas mom was pistol whipped as she was putting her child in a car seat.
The frequency and severity of parking lot crime at Wal-Marts nationwide is nothing new to the planet’s largest retailer, which meticulously tracks every incident on its property, from simple theft to a slip and fall, from a false alarm to a carjacking.
Despite the abundance of both public and internal data on Wal-Mart parking lot crime, as a class of violence wholly unto itself in the world of premises liability, Wal-Mart’s legal strategy in the face of lawsuits is to feign ignorance of how profoundly foreseeable violence in its parking lots has become.
Foreseeability is the predicate to accountability — without it, making a case is incredibly more difficult. For better or worse, Wal-Mart’s active negligence in many situations is sufficient to overcome legal challenges, but why fight that battle when all the data in the world is at Wal-Mart’s fingertips?
If “past is prologue” as Shakespeare famously wrote, there is no better example of this truism than that the saturation of violence seeping into communities nationwide from its point of origin in Bentonville, Arkansas, will continue until the company changes its ways.
After the shock of the next awful crime wears off, Wal-Mart’s “valued customers” should prepare for the next round of intentional insult — the litigation process. Wal-Mart is historically indifferent to its obligations in the discovery process, candor to the court and the Rules Of Civil Procedure with which we all must comply.
Orders sanctioning Wal-Mart are so ubiquitous in state and federal courts around the country that a healthy three-ring binder is required to hold them properly. Monetary court sanctions, until imposed on a historically unprecedented scale, are meaningless. The reason is obvious. Wal-Mart’s 2015 consolidated net income was $16.5 billion. That works out to about $44 million per day, which is up more than 2 percent from the previous year. Little financial incentive can be seen for any change in customer safety protocols.
Know this, however — foreseeability in a Wal-Mart negligent security case is a foregone conclusion. The data is there. It has been studied internally by Wal-Mart executives as a problem requiring a solution and has been dissected nationwide by attorneys and experts for decades.
The easiest solution to the clear and present danger posed by this wolf in suburban retail clothing, of course, would be a meaningful overhaul of Wal-Mart’s utterly lacking security regime. The money is there to make the lifeblood of its success — its customers — much safer. According to its own financial reports, Wal-Mart returned $7.2 billion to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases in 2015. A review of those materials demonstrates that nearly every aspect of the behemoth operation is dissected in great detail, except keeping its customers safe.
Wal-Mart’s 2015 10K annual report issued in March uses the word “crime” only once. That single appearance is in reference to “alleged violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other alleged crimes or misconduct in connection with foreign subsidiaries, including Wal-Mart de Mexico.”
Going back all the way to 1994, Wal-Mart analyzed the cost of providing 80 hours of off-duty police protection at $25 per hour in some of its Florida stores. If Wal-Mart were to implement that level of coverage today at each of its approximately 5,200 stores (including Sam’s Club, Neighborhood Markets and discount stores) at $35 per hour, it would cost approximately $757 million, or roughly one-tenth of the dividend and share repurchases in 2015.
Simple math suggests that yes, it is possible to make massive profits, give investors great returns and keep all of their customer’s safe. If Wal-Mart were to raise the price of a bauble or two by a few cents, the approximate 17 days of 2015 profits devoted to saving lives could be recouped entirely, and the drop in the bucket could be recovered entirely. Customers would live. Employees could go to their cars to go home, comfortable that their Glock isn’t all that’s between them and the next robbery. Such is the definition of a “win win.”
Until then, caveat emptor.
——-END ARTICLE ———
Article by Christopher Marlowe as published in the Daily Business Review
To review the article in DBR, click here