Martino v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 908 So.2d 342, 346 (Fla.2005) is an appeal from a case where Ronna Martino sued Wal-mart Stores, Inc. The case was appealed to Florida’s Supreme Court.
The court issued an opinion in 2005. This case is still good law so you should know it.
West Palm Beach, Florida attorneys represented the injured woman. A Coral Gables, Florida lawyer represented Walmart.
This is not my case, though I have handled and settled many Florida store accident cases.
In March 1997, Ronna Martino (Martino) went to a Wal-Mart store in Royal Palm Beach. In addition to other items, Martino placed two forty-pound bags of salt in her shopping cart.
When checking out, Martino placed all of her items except the bags of salt on the counter for the cashier. According to Martino, the cashier then asked Martino to lift up the bags of salt so that the cashier could scan the price code.
Martino attempted to comply with the cashier’s request, placing one bag of salt on the top of the shopping cart where a child would sit.
As she placed the salt on top of the shopping cart. The cart collapsed. Martino injured her arm.
Martino then completed the sale and went home. Martino said that once she returned home, she called the Wal-Mart store and asked to speak to the manager.
Her call was answered by the assistant manager, who advised her to go to the hospital to have her arm checked and then return to Wal-Mart to fill out an incident report.
Martino said that during the conversation with Wal-Mart’s assistant manager, Martino informed him where he could find the shopping cart in the parking lot.
After her visit to the hospital, Martino returned to Wal-Mart and filled out an incident report. Martino said that while she was at the store, she showed the assistant manager where the shopping cart was in the parking lot.
Martino requested that he obtain the videotape of the incident from the surveillance camera inside the store. On August 26, 1999, Martino sued Wal-Mart, claiming that Wal-Mart was negligent in:
- its inspection and maintenance of the store’s shopping carts (the “negligent maintenance” theory) and
- in failing to properly train store employees regarding appropriate procedures for scanning and customer handling of heavy items (the “negligent mode of operation” theory).
Martino’s husband also asserted a claim for loss of consortium.
During discovery in the lawsuit, Martino requested the shopping cart and a copy of the video surveillance tape. Walmart could not produce either item, Martino alleging a separate claim for spoliation of evidence.
The Florida Supreme Court said that in the past it held that when evidence was intentionally lost, misplaced, or destroyed by one party, trial courts were to rely on sanctions found in Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.380(b)(2) and that “a jury could well infer from such a finding that the records would have contained indications of negligence.”
If the loss of the evidence was determined to be negligent, a rebuttable presumption of negligence for the underlying tort applied. However, the presumption only applied when “the absence of evidence hinders the injured person’s ability to establish a prima facie case.
This rebuttable presumption shifted the burden of proof under section 90.302(2), Florida Statutes, so that the presumption is not overcome until jury believes that the presumed negligence has been overcome by whatever degree of persuasion is required by the law of the case.
The case was allowed to go forward to trial.
Check out my other articles on Walmart accident claims in Florida
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- Walmart trip and fall injury claims in Florida
- Walmart accident claims in Florida
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- Slip and fall on slippery substance claim against Florida Walmart dismissed
- Court refuses to dismiss trip and fall on plastic claim vs. Walmart in Pinellas County, Florida
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