Target Loses $4.6M at Jury Trial After Rejecting $12k Settlement Offer in Injury Lawsuit

Target Corp. recently lost a $4.6 million personal injury lawsuit after a South Carolina woman alleged she was hurt when swatting a hypodermic needle away from her young daughter, who had picked up the dangerous device in the store parking lot. needle1

According to court records, the incident occurred in 2016 at a store in Anderson. The woman testified she was getting out of her car when she spotted her 8-year-old daughter picking up the needle. Instinctively, the mother knocked the needle from her daughter’s grasp. As she did so, the needle stuck her in the right palm. She walked right into the store and reported what had happened to an employee. That worker jotted down in an incident report that the woman “seemed worried.”

She was later transported to a local hospital, where she was tested for both HIV and hepatitis. Although she tested negative for both, she did undergo treatment that involved consuming a powerful medication that would prevent her from contracting HIV. This made her extremely ill, which prompted her husband to take an extensive period of time off work. She has thus far continued to test negative for these diseases. 

As our Miami civil litigation attorneys can explain, one of the base-level rights of a consumer is a reasonable expectation of safety. In a parking lot, customers of a retail store do have to be mindful of things like traffic, potholes or obvious slippery substances. Used hypodermic needles typically are not on the list of things to watch out for.

Premises liability law in Florida imposes on businesses the highest duty of care to protect their patrons from dangers that are not obvious and not foreseeable. Because customers at retail stores are lawfully on site for the financial benefit of the retailer, the retailer has a duty not just to avoid creating hazards and warning about those that do exist, but also to routinely inspect for possible dangers. What constitutes “routine inspection” will depend on industry standards. For example, grocery stores with a potential for dropped, slippery items probably need to conduct more frequent inspections than maybe a clothing retailer. The individual circumstances of the case are going to be crucial, and so will the skill of your civil litigation lawyer.

In this case, plaintiff attorney said plaintiff was not pushing to take this case to trial, even though her legal team was prepared to do so. She simply wanted to be reimbursed for her medical bills and the time her husband had to take off work while caring for her. That’s why they extended a $12,000 settlement offer. Target, however, rejected that and came back with a counter offer of $750.

The case proceeded to trial and jurors awarded $4.6 million – with the largest chunk of that being punitive damages. Such damages reflect not the actual losses of the plaintiff (in the way compensatory damages do) but instead are intended to penalize defendants and serve as a deterrent to such action in the future. In South Carolina, there are caps on punitive damages, so it’s likely a remittitur (reduction) will result in a lower damage amount. Nonetheless, Target’s failure to seize on a reasonable settlement offer after breaching its duty of care to a customer will likely result in a hefty penalty.

If you’re battling debt collection in Miami or the surrounding areas contact Jacobs|Keeley for a confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call (305) 358-7991. Also, don’t miss Miami Foreclosure Attorney Bruce Jacobs on 880AM/the Biz, every Wednesday at 5 p.m. on “Debt Warriors with Bruce Jacobs and Court Keeley,” discussing foreclosure topics that matter to YOU.

Additional Resources:

Target hit with $4.6 million jury verdict at trial; retailer had nixed $12K settlement offer, Feb. 12, 2016, By Stephanie Francis Ward, ABA Journal

More Blog Entries:

Wells Fargo Claws Back $41M of CEO During Inquiry Period, Sept. 27, 2016, Miami Consumer Rights Lawyer Blog