In May 2014 Carla Garrison’s daughter picked up a discarded hypodermic needle in the parking lot of a Target store in South Carolina. When Carla swatted it away, it stuck in her own hand. Justifiably concerned, she went to the doctor, who prescribed her medications used to prevent contracting the HIV virus (thankfully she tested negative). The medication supposedly made her ill enough to be bedridden. She offered to settle with Target for $12,000, but Target offered her $750 in response.
The trial judge denied Target’s motion to throw the case out on the basis that the store wasn’t aware of the needle. This case went to trial, where the jury found Target responsible and awarded Carla $4.6 million dollars. There aren’t enough details available yet to figure out exactly what happened. But to say the least the verdict seems excessive unless, for example, the evidence showed that the store had a history of old needles being discarded around the store, and ignored the hazard.
Our firm routinely defends what seem to be “small” personal injury cases. And no doubt both Target and its lawyers (and maybe Carla’s lawyers too) assumed this was a “small case.” Cases like this are the reason businesses must take seriously any injury lawsuit brought against it. Occasionally jurors will look at a case completely differently than the lawyers and judges have. My guess is that this award will get drastically reduced by the courts. But even if its reduced 90% Target will still face a $460,000 verdict! The lesson for businesses is, take seriously each and every suit against your company. And as always, call us if we can help.