Former truck driver Holly Averyt has earned herself $10 million in a Walmart slip and fall lawsuit. The Colorado Supreme Court confirmed the jury award earlier this week, which originally came in at $15 million.
It was reduced as the result of a state-imposed cap on non-economic damages.
Averyt suffered from debilitating back injuries as a result of a grease spill in the Greeley Walmart's loading dock. Though permanent and painful, it was ultimately Walmart's courtroom behavior that led to such a large award.
During opening statements, Walmart vehemently denied the existence of any grease spill. Attorneys asserted that, had there been a spill, the company would have had documentation of its occurrence. It had none.
Except that Holly Averyt's attorneys found city records referencing a grease spill, investigation and cleanup at the Greeley Walmart. They used those records to impeach--or discredit--Walmart's corporate representative while on the stand.
As a result, Walmart suddenly found an assistant manager who remembered the grease spill. And corporate documents.
Still, Walmart appealed the award, arguing that Averyt's attorneys should have disclosed the city documents in a timely manner. They also claimed that the $10 million award was the result of unfair jury prejudice.
The Colorado Supreme Court disagreed on both counts.
Parties to a lawsuit ordinarily must disclose proprietary documents in order to prevent surprises. But city records are public and could have been easily discovered by Walmart's slip and fall counsel. Therefore there is no duty to disclose.
As for the jury's prejudice, the court states that it was "invited" by Walmart's backtracking. It therefore wasn't a proper justification for overturning the verdict.
In the end, Holly Averyt's Walmart slip and fall suit demonstrates that some juries will go out of their way to punish perceived liars.