Walmart must pay a truck driver who slipped and fell on ice and grease while making a delivery to a Walmart store in northern Colorado a $10 million award after the state Supreme Court upheld a jury verdict in the case on Monday.
A jury awarded $15 million to driver, 41-year-old Holly Averyt of Cheyenne, WY, in November 2010. Averyt had to undergo three spine surgeries, was unable to return to work and lost her truck as a result of the accident.
Walmart appealed and a lower court granted the company a new trial, saying the award was “excessive, not supported by the evidence and could only be the result of prejudice and bias and the jury’s desire to punish Wal-Mart.”
Walmart told jurors in the original trial that there had been no grease spill at the store. Wal-Mart had also said in its appeal that Averyt’s attorneys failed to disclose city documents during the original trial that showed some grease from the store’s deli didn’t get trapped in a device designed to keep it from getting into the sewer.
The Supreme Court’s ruling threw out the order for a new trial, saying Averyt’s attorneys had no requirement to disclose a document that could be easily found in public records, according to a Huffington Post report. The court also said any prejudice the jury may have harbored toward the Bentonville, AK, company was due to its initial refusal to produce evidence or admit the existence of the grease spill.
Justices reduced the award amount by $5 million because of a state cap on non-economic damages.
“Justice was done,” said Averyt’s attorney Bob Miller following the verdict.
“We respectfully disagree with the court’s opinion,” Walmart spokesman David Tovar said. “We’re continuing to focus on operating a safe shopping and working environment in all our stores.”