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Overloaded bag kills woman, Walmart facing lawsuit

International megastore Walmart is, as usual, being sued — this time, for allegedly causing the ultimate death of a customer.

On April 16, 2010, Lynette and William Freis went shopping at Walmart, where they bought two 42-ounce cans of La Choy and a 2-pound bag of rice, all of which were placed in a single bag that later broke on the way to their car.

According to William, the bag broke, causing a La Choy can to fall on his wife’s right foot, breaking her toe and cutting it open, resulting in an infection. Despite rounds of antibiotics and two surgeries, the infection spread. According to the lawsuit, it “ultimately resulted in her death on March 12, 2011.”

William claims his wife’s death was the fault of Walmart for not properly training its employees to double-bag heavy items. Likewise, he claims the company who produces the bags, Hilex Poly Co., is at fault as well for its faulty product and thus is also mentioned in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, which was filed in February to the Sarpy County Court, was rerouted to the United States District Court in Omaha. William seeks nearly $657,000 for medical and funeral expenses and an additional unknown amount for irreparable damages.

Although tragic, the death of Lynette is not Walmart’s fault. Nor is it Hilex Poly Co.’s.

William claims that Walmart does not provide proper bagging training, but unless he has ever been through the training, that statement is actually speculation. Likewise, if an employee does not follow company protocol, it does not mean proper training was not given. Similarly, blaming the whole company for the action of one employee is like blaming the University for alumnus Uriel Landeros’ defacing of a Picasso painting displayed at the Menil Collection last June. Contrary to the popular saying, one apple should not spoil the bunch.

Although the employee should have realized that the combined weight of the items was too much for the lone bag to handle, the same can be said about the Freises. If they, as logical human beings, thought another bag or separate bags were necessary, they should have spoken up. It is unlikely the bagger would have protested. This is not to say Lynette’s death was either her or her husband’s fault, but it is a point worth mentioning.

As for Hilex Poly Co.’s involvement in the case, all they do is provide the bags. They do not determine the way they are used and should therefore be absolved.

All that being said, there is an especially important question that must be answered: how long did the Freises wait to seek medical attention? If the answer is immediately, the infection should have been halted in time to stop the spreading. If days passed before seeing a doctor, some personal fault is there.

 Opinion columnist Monica Rojas is a print journalism sophomore and may be reached at [email protected]

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