Here’s a story you won’t see in Wal-Mart’s Annual Report. It comes from an Arkansas court case in May of 1998. At approximately 9:30 pm on the night of April 17, 1995, Mitchell Skinner and Patric Patterson drove to the Wal-Mart supercenter in Searcy, AR, and parked their vehicle in a space close to the door. For 30 minutes or more, the two sat in their care smoking marijuana and methamphetamine. Later, both men left the car and proceeded to the front of the store, where Skinner watched as Patterson pretended to make a phone call and play a video game. Patterson carried a 12 inch knife in his pants, which created a huge bulge in his pocket. After the two had pretended to make a phone call and play video games for ten minutes, they sat down on a bench in front of the store. They spent ten to fifteen minutes on the bench, during which time Patterson made comments of a sexual nature about various women as they entered the store. Skinner was shaking due to his consumption of methamphetamine, and he returned to the car. Around 10:15 pm, Carla Willmon Jones arrived at the Wal-Mart Supercenter, parked her car,and entered the store. While she was shopping, Skinner and Patterson moved their car to a parking space near hers. When Jones returned, Patterson approached her and asked for assistance starting their car. Ms. Jones refused. When she opened her car door, Patterson shoved her inside her car. The two men then drove her car to a nearby business and forced her into the trunk, and then returned to Wal-Mart to pick up their vehicle. Later that evening, Skinner and Patterson raped and murdered Carla Willmon Jones. Roy Willmon, acting on behalf of his deceased daughter, brought a wrongful death action against Wal-Mart for negligently failing to implement feasible precautions and failing to use ordinary care to maintain the store premises in a safe condition. Wal-Mart denied being liable in any way, and asked the courts to throw the case out. The district court ruled that Wal-Mart had “no duty of care” to Ms. Jones. When Roy Willmon went to Circuit court on appeal, he lost there too.
Wal-Mart stores attract more than shoppers. Shoppers who are injured or hurt in superstore parking lots should not expect companies like Wal-Mart to accept any responsibity for what happens to them.