Girardi | Keese

Federal judge allowing Mal-Mart to sue cart manufacturer

An interesting case out of New Jersey has peaked people's attention across the country, including many here in California this month.  While the woman in the case is suing Wal-Mart for an injury she says she received from one of their shopping carts, Wal-Mart is in turn blaming the shopping cart's maker in a third-party complaint.  So who should be held liable for the injury: the store where the injury was received or the manufacturer of the product which caused the injury in the first place?

According to the original lawsuit, a female customer was holding Wal-Mart responsible for a 2010 injury she says she received while shopping at the store.  In her negligence complaint, she explained that she received the injury from a piece of wire or metal that had become dislodged from a shopping cart.  Feeling that the cart's manufacturer, Unarco, was partially responsible for her injury, the store soon filed a third-party complaint claiming that the cart was a defective product.

A federal judge is upholding Wal-Mart's right to sue Unarco on the grounds that the dislodge piece of metal may have occurred from a manufacturer's defect instead of improper maintainance on Wal-Mart's part.

The judge did point out in his summary, however, that the detached piece of metal would not necessarily absolve Wal-Mart of any liability.  If Unarco's negligence was found to have led to the woman's injury, any damages resulting from the suit would fall within the indemnity clause signed between Wal-Mart and Unarco, allowing Mal-Mart to pay the woman for her injuries in the end.

Source:  Courthouse News Service, "Wal-Mart Can Sue Major Shopping Cart Maker," Rose Bouboushian, April 25, 2013

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