A Russell County Circuit Court jury returned a $7.5 million verdict late Wednesday against retail giant Walmart at its Phenix City store.
In July 2015, Henry Walker, a retired Army sergeant, was purchasing a watermelon at the store when his foot got caught in the wooden pallet and he fell, breaking his foot and hip, according to court testimony.
Walker, 59 at the time of the incident, was awarded $2.5 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages by the seven-black, five-white member jury.
Walker, who resides in Phenix City, was represented by Columbus attorneys Charlie Gower, his associate Shaun O’Hara and David Rayfield of Waldrep Mullin & Callahan LLC.
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“It was a fair verdict because Walmart just didn’t care,” said Gower, the lead attorney. “They should have had something to cover up that pallet so someone’s foot couldn’t get caught in it, and they didn’t.”
The trial started Monday in front of Judge Mike Bellamy with the striking of the jury. The case was presented Tuesday and Wednesday with the jury deliberating for about two hours before returning the verdict.
Walmart was represented by Vaughn Russell of Birmingham and Scott Sasser of Lee County. Walmart is expected to appeal the decision, Gower said.
“I think this jury appreciated what Mr. Walker went through and they compensated him accordingly,” said Rayfield, who started his legal career in Phenix City. “This is a great verdict for the community because this jury wanted to make sure it was safe for shoppers.”
For Rayfield, it was his second large verdict in less than two months. In September, a Muscogee County State Court jury returned a verdict of almost $1 million against a Columbus bail bonding company in a case of mistaken identity.
The jury awarded Jasmine Hayes $350,000 in compensatory damages and $600,000 in punitive damages against John F. Law, doing business as Ace Bonding Co. Rayfield represented Hayes.