The Alvarez Law Firm is pleased to report that second year associate Lisa Cabrera has won her first jury trial. A Miami-Dade County jury agreed with Ms. Cabrera and awarded her client$150,000.00 against retail store giant Wal-Mart.
Ms. Cabrera represented a Miami-Dade police officer who was injured while attempting to arrest a violent and mentally disturbed war veteran.
The incident stemmed from what could only be characterized as one of the most reckless and bizarre acts by a department store manager in recent history.
A well trained, muscular, 225 pound, U.S. military veteran, suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”), who was also admittedly suicidal, diagnosed with paranoia and schizophrenia, not taking medication for her mental disorders, and under the influence of illicit drugs, walked into the Wal-Mart in Doral and approached a Wal-Mart sales associate in the sporting goods department who was attending another customer. The disturbed veteran became erratic and demanded to be attended first and began to pick up merchandise from a counter and throw it to the floor. The veteran then demanded to buy a handgun and bullets. When the veteran was told this particular Wal-Mart did not sell handguns, the veteran then proceeded to pick up a basketball and throw it at the sales associate’s face. Two Wal-Mart managers were summoned and confronted the veteran who was described by them as being either mentally ill or on drugs. The veteran repeated the demands for a handgun and became aggressive. One manager asked the veteran to leave the store or he would call the police. The veteran refused to leave and the manager calls for the police.
Incredibly the second manager who has been told that the customer is mentally disturbed or on drugs and has already attacked a sales associate, thrown merchandise on the floor, and is looking to purchase a handgun and bullets, told the veteran that she would sell the veteran a knife! The manager who was calling the police heard his co-manager and told her not to give the veteran a knife and that he was calling the police. Despite this, the second manager walked the disturbed veteran to the locked counter where the knives were on display, opened the locked glass display counter, took a box containing a knife out, opened the box, and then handed the veteran a knife with a 4″ blade. The veteran then began to go after the initial sales associate with the knife.
Ms. Cabrera’s client, a police officer, was a block away from the Wal-Mart when the call was dispatched and arrived within seconds. He confronted the now knife wielding veteran in the electronics department and ordered the veteran to put down the knife. The disturbed veteran instead raised the knife and went after the officer. The officer used exceptional discretion and tasered the veteran instead of resorting to his service handgun. The veteran immediately went down and rolled on the ground from the effects of the taser. When the veteran rolled on the floor the taser prongs were dislodged and they no longer incapacitated the veteran. The disturbed veteran got back up and attacked the officer. The veteran, while still holding the knife, engaged the officer in hand to hand combat. The officer managed to get the get the knife but not before he was injured. The veteran then went for the officer’s holstered gun. The officer held on until back-up officers and bystanders jumped in, as the veteran tried to pull the officer’s handgun from the holster. It took 5 police officers to finally subdue the mentally ill veteran.
The lawsuit claimed that Wal-Mart was not only negligent but grossly negligent for placing a deadly weapon in the hands of an obviously violent and mentally disturbed patron. Everyone in the store was put at risk by the reckless actions of a store manager. The jury agreed and also assessed punitive damages against Wal-Mart.