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Nordstrom Must Pay $1.6M to Customers Stabbed

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on April 21, 2011 6:46 AM

A Maryland jury has awarded two women $1.6 million after they were severely injured in a 2005 stabbing attack that occurred at a Montgomery County Nordstrom.

Jurors found that the high-end retailer failed to properly protect customers from the attacker despite their ability and responsibility to do so.

Back in 2005, the day after Antoinette Starks was released from prison, she entered a nearby Nordstrom with four knives and, after threatening employees, started attacking shoppers.

Sarah Paseltiner and Jacqueline Greismann sued the store, alleging that, in the wake of the Nordstrom stabbing, employees failed to follow set procedures for emergencies, reports the Associated Press. They did not alert shoppers nor did they attempt an evacuation.

In fact, the Nordstrom stabbing was stopped by an off-duty FBI agent who happened to be armed, reports the The Washington Post.

On some level, it may seem odd to hold a retailer accountable for the violent actions of a mentally ill woman. But, negligence law dictates that business owners owe an elevated duty of care to their customers.

This sometimes includes the duty to protect patrons, but it most certainly includes the duty to warn them about dangerous conditions.

This does not mean that employees weren't required to throw themselves in front of the woman. Instead, given the facts of the situation, they were required to take reasonable steps to protect shoppers from further injuries.

In other words, they had a legal duty to, at the very least, warn shoppers that the Nordstrom stabbing was occurring, and that shoppers should get out.

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