A Nebraska widower is suing Wal-Mart (http://yhoo.it/17Q9ZOv) and the maker of the store’s plastic bags after a broken bag created a chain of events that ended in his wife’s death. The lawsuit claims that Wal-Mart was negligent in its employee training by not instructing the bagger to double bag heavy items.
The items inside the bag included two heavy cans of liquid and a bag of rice. When the single bag ripped, a large can fell out, caused a deep cut, and broke the woman’s toe. The cut became infected and despite multiple rounds of antibiotics and surgeries, the infection spread throughout her body and eventually claimed her life.
The lawsuit is being filed on behalf of the woman’s estate and seeks more than $656,000.00 in compensation for medical expenses, funeral and burial expenses, pain and suffering, and the husband’s loss of companionship.
The facts of the case illustrate a legal rule known as the “eggshell plaintiff” or “eggshell skull rule.” This rule presents the idea that the negligent party is responsible for all resulting injuries flowing from the original negligent or intentional bad acts. Under this rule, even if the injured party has a compromised immune system, is in failing health, or even has a skull as thin as an eggshell, the defendant must make amends for the full extent of those injuries.
The complicated part in presenting a claim against Wal-Mart in this case will be connecting the chain of events with the original allegedly negligent action. The plaintiff will need to establish that there were no intervening causes of injury to the toe, such as a second cut that she suffered after the falling can cut and broke her toe. Although it is uncommon for someone to contract an infection that is unresponsive to medical treatment and then leads to death, the defendant may still be held responsible.
The linking of factual events with the defendant’s legal responsibility is called factual and proximate causation. In order to prevail, the widower—working with his wrongful death attorney—has the burden to establish that through the negligence of Wal-Mart and the bag manufacturer, the defendants were the factual and proximate cause of the woman’s injured toe, the resulting infection, and her eventual death.
For more information on the elements of proving causation, speak to a knowledgeable personal injury attorney.