Walmart SSSSSued over Snake Bite - Legally Weird
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Walmart SSSSSued over Snake Bite

It came from the swamps of Florida. Then, it went shopping at Walmart. We are speaking here, of course of a large, black snake who happened to bite a customer while she, or it, was doing the family shopping at the Walmart Garden Center in Jacksonville, Florida.

According to the Complaint filed on April 30, 2010, plaintiff Marion D. Jarrell was doing a little shopping at the Walmart in her hometown of Jacksonville. While reaching into some foliage for the houseplant of her choice, Ms. Jarrell felt a sharp sting on her arm. She pulled her arm out to find a large, black snake attached to it. At this point, Jarrell says she discovered that the snake had bitten firmly into her arm and was just dangling there, long enough to reach below her knee.

Showing the presence of mind that can only be found in a Florida resident, Ms. Jarrell shook her arm to detach her attacker. However, according to the Complaint, that only made the snake mad, causing it to wrap around her leg and tighten the grip of its fangs on her arm. Losing her sang-froid just a bit; Jarrell shook her leg to try to dislodge the critter, slamming her knee into the plant stand in the process.

Ms. Jarrell is now seeking compensation from Walmart for her pain, suffering, mental anguish, medical costs and lost wages due to the attack. Her husband, Mr. Charles D. Jarrell, is also suing for loss of consortium. This is a count that can be brought by the spouse of the injured party for loss of comfort, care, services, companionship and attention of said spouse.

The Jarrells contend, and it seems reasonable on its face, that Walmart failed in its duty to its customers to act with reasonable care for their safety. To prove a case for negligence, the plaintiff must show that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty, that the duty was breached, and that the acts of the defendant were the actual and foreseeable cause of the plaintiff's resulting damages. 

In this case, the Jarrells make a fairly strong case for the duty owed by the store and their subsequent failure in that duty. To be more specific, according to the Complaint, the store  "failed to prevent snakes from entering the garden center," (after all, this is Florida) ... were aware of the "occasional presence of snakes in the garden center," but failed "to warn invitees [customers] of the possible presence of snakes in the garden center."

Plaintiffs demand a jury trial. Hopefully, someone will check the courtroom for snakes first. After all, this is Florida.

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