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Wal-Mart Employee Trampled During Black Friday Shopping Sale Died From Positional Asphyxia

The attorney for the family of Jdimytai Damour, a seasonal Wal-Mart maintenance employee who died after being trampled by shoppers that were scrambling to enter the store during last week’s Black Friday sale, says that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. could have done more to prevent the 34-year-old’s death. Damour died of positional asphyxia, which means the position that his body was in prevented him from breathing.

The catastrophic work accident happened at about 5am, as some 2,000 shoppers broke the glass door and stampeded into the Wal-Mart store so they could avail of huge (but limited) discounts on computers, electronics, and other items. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500 is calling for a full investigation into the incident. It also wants Wal-Mart to take action so that such a deadly accident never happens in one of its stores again. Already, Fritz and Jonathan Mesadieu are suing Wal-Mart for injuries they sustained during the shopping frenzy at the same store where Damour was trampled.

The Mesadieus’ lawsuit is not the first time the retail chain has been sued for personal injury. In 2003, a female shopper filed a lawsuit after she was injured at a Wal-Mart when two other shoppers grabbed her neck and pushed her after she tried cutting in line. In 1999, five customers sued Wal-Mart because they claim that other shoppers who were scrambling for Furby dolls had injured them.

Wal-Mart insists that it put in place numerous safety precautions at the store where Damou died during last week’s post-Thanksgiving sale, including setting up barricades and making sure there were internal and external security teams present. The wrongful death lawyer for Damou’s three sisters, however, disputes these claims and says the Wal-Mart store did not have enough security personnel onsite who were properly trained.

Whether or not Damou’s family will qualify for death benefits under workers’ compensation law or are able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against Wal-Mart will depend on whether or not Damou, hired from a temporary work agency, is considered a company employee. The family is also considering whether to file third party lawsuits. Some people are critcizing local police for their failure to prevent the deadly work accident. Nassau County police, however, say that providing security at the Wal-Mart store was not their responsibility.

Wal-Mart Assailed on Death, The Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2008
Wal-Mart death preventable, union says, CNN, November 30, 2008
Related Web Resources:

Workers’ Compensation, Justia
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