CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) – Lawyers for Walmart and a former employee who survived the Chesapeake mass shooting were in court Wednesday morning to argue before a judge who would decide if the case could move forward.
Briana Tyler’s $50 million suit against the company hit a snag, but may still be able to move forward.
Walmart’s attorneys had previously filed briefs arguing that the suit shouldn’t be heard in court because it’s technically covered under the Virginia Worker’s Compensation Act, and thus up to Walmart to handle payout claims.
Lawyers for Tyler made the case that the shooting was not a reasonable expectation of working at the store and therefore is not a worker’s compensation matter.
The disagreement essentially hinged on whether or not the shooter’s attempt to murder Tyler was because she was a fellow employee or because he had a personal motivation to target her.
Tyler’s attorneys said that a Walmart investigator had contacted their client and mentioned surveillance video of the shooter pursuing her through the store after she was able to make it out of the breakroom. That, they said, would be proof it was personal.
They added that after the shooting, Tyler found that her jacket had holes in it that may have come from bullets, illustrating just how close she came to being killed in the attack.
After taking a recess to go back through his notes, the judge ruled to sustain the defense’s demurer motion (effectively agreeing that the case was insufficient to be heard in circuit court) but gave Tyler’s attorneys 30 days to come back and make their case again with more information.
Outside the courthouse, Gregory Sandler, an attorney representing Tyler, said that the multibillion-dollar company’s worker’s compensation payments had been minimal so far. He also explained that Walmart had originally told employees the store wouldn’t reopen, which it did just one week ago – a move that left many of those affected by the tragedy hurt and confused.