North Carolina Law Shields Walmart In Greeter Death Suit

Filed under: Legal,News,Safety & Workplace Violence |

For Rochelle Boswell Pender working as a Walmart store greeter gave her reason to live. It turned out to be a killer job.

Pender, 71, died in 2011 after a Walmart loss-control employee and an alleged shoplifter fleeing the store collided with her. Pender was seriously hurt, dying of a head injury.

WalmartNow a North Carolina court says her family has no right to sure Walmart in connection with her death on the job. Pender’s family cannot sue the world’s largest employer for wrongful death the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled Feb. 5, 2013.

The exclusivity provision within North Carolina’s pro-employer workers compensation law shields Walmart and other defendants, the appeals court ruled in Wendy Sue Pender v. Joshua Max Lambert.

Pender lost her life over a package of light bulbs, according to accounts of the incident.

On May 18, 2011 Sean Repass was working loss-prevention in a Wilson, N.C., Walmart looking for suspected shoplifters, according to the court’s ruling.

Repass suspected Joshua Max Lambert, 23 at the time of incident, of stealing light bulbs. He asked Lambert to follow him to the back of the store.

Violation Of Walmart Policy

Instead, Lambert ran. Repass chased him, in violation Walmart’s no-chase policy.

During the chase Repass and Lambert collided with and injured store greeter Pender. Pender died two days later on May 20, 2011.

“She did not deserve to die this kind of death,” Pender’s daughter, Teresa Langley, told television station WRAL.

Langley said she had begged her mother to stop working, but she gave up when she realized how important the role was to Pender.

“A lot of people her age are not even working. She hung onto her job after we lost our dad because that gave her life,” Langley said.

Pender worked at the Walmart store for 15 years, WRAL reporteed

Repass was fired for violating Walmart ‘s no-chase policy.

Lambert was charged two counts of simple assault and was held in the Wilson County, N.C., jail, according to published reports.

Pender’s family filed suit in July 2011 against Lambert, Sean Repass and “Walmart defendants,” including Walmart Stores Inc. and Walmart Associates Inc.

Pender’s family argued that an exception to the workers compensation exclusive remedy should apply because Walmart essentially maintained a quota system with loss-prevention associates expected to reach eight apprehensions per month.

A North Carolina Superior Court judge granted a request by Walmart and Repass for summary in 2012 judgment. Pender’s family appealed.

The family’s lawsuit claimed the shoplifter apprehension quota amounted to employer misconduct that was certain to cause serious injury or death.

But the appeals court disagreed, affirming the lower court’s summary judgment.

The appeals court ruled:

“Here, superimposed on top of the purported quota system, is Walmart’s no-chase policy. The fact that Walmart Associates has implemented a no-chase policy evidences that it prioritizes the safety of its (Repass) employees and customers. Walmart Associates terminated for violating this policy, further indicating its commitment to safety. Additionally, the record indicates that no prior injuries have resulted from the imposition of the quota system.”

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