Wal-Mart Sued over Black Friday Death
Posted by Shaun Dawson on December 4, 2008
Jdimytai Damour, 34, was a big man – standing 6ft 5ins tall and weighing 270lbs – he could have been a linebacker in the NFL; but he was no match for the crush of the crowd seeking bargains at the Wal-Mart store at the Green Acres Mall in Long Island on Black Friday. It was probably his size that landed him the job of crowd control at the entrance of the store that fatal Friday morning.
He died of asphyxiation after the crowd of bargain-hunters, estimated to be around 2,000 strong, broke down the doors and overwhelmed the staff just shortly after 5am on Friday morning.
“Those hundreds of people who did make their way into the store, literally had to step over or around him or unfortunately on him to get into the Wal-Mart store,” Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey said this week.
The family of Jdimytai Damour has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit claiming store ads offering deep discounts “created an atmosphere of competition and anxiety” that led to “crowd craze.” The lawsuit also claims that Wal-Mart failed to provide adequate security and the company “engaged in specific marketing and advertising techniques to specifically attract a large crowd and create an environment of frenzy and mayhem and was otherwise careless, reckless and negligent.”
The Green Acres Mall, owned by Vornado Realty Trust, a realty company, that manages the property and a security company, Securitas, hired to patrol the property were all named as defendants.
The lawsuit against Wal-Mart and the other companies was filed in state Supreme Court in the Bronx, the home of one of the victim’s sisters, Elsie Damour Phillipe, the court-appointed administrator of his estate. It does not seek specific damages.
In a statement issued by Wal-Mart, the company appears willing to bear some responsibility for the death of Damour, saying it would also cooperate with local law enforcement officials to develop stronger safety measures for the future.
“We consider Mr. Damour part of the Wal-Mart family, and are saddened by his death,” the statement said. “We have been in communication with members of his family to do what we can to help them through this difficult time. Our associates know that when incidents like this occur, we take care of our own.”
Police are reviewing store video to identify possible suspects in Damour’s death, but Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey conceded that criminal charges are unlikely. He said it was apparent to him that the Wal-Mart store lacked adequate security to handle the crowds. He said police representatives met with retailers throughout the county two weeks before Thanksgiving and made it clear that security and crowd control for the sales were the merchants’ responsibilities.
The family’s lawyer, Jordan Hecht, said Damour’s family also plans to file lawsuits against Nassau County and its police department.
Even though Damour’s death was the direct result of lack of crowd control, some of the workers said they were still shaken by Mr. Damour’s death and added that they had mixed feelings about whether the store should have hired more security.
“How could you know something like that would happen?” said one worker, who added that the store was even busier this year than on Black Friday last year. “No one expected something like that.”
Wal-Mart workers interviewed on Saturday said they had been told by their managers not to speak to reporters or give their names. But they said that on Friday morning, when the store was closed for a few hours after Mr. Damour’s death, dozens of workers gathered near the front door to pray. They were led by a woman who worked as a greeter.
“It was crazy,” said a worker in the electronics department who was in the store during the stampede. “The deals weren’t even that good.”