CHESAPEAKE (WAVY) — A judge has decided that a lawsuit by a Walmart employee can proceed over the objections of the giant retailer. Briana Tyler was an employee last Nov. 22 when her shift supervisor opened fire, killing six.
The ruling, obtained by 10 On Your Side late Monday afternoon and not official because it must be signed by attorneys for both sides, ruled in favor of Tyler on two fronts: negligent retention, and the legal concept that an employer can be held responsible for the actions of its employee.
Negligent retention means that Tyler can sue on the basis that Walmart should have known that the shooter was a danger to employees and terminated him, based on complaints prior to the mass shooting just two days before Thanksgiving.
Judge Stephen Telfeyan, however, ruled that Tyler cannot pursue claims that Walmart was culpable of either gross or willful and wanton negligence.
Walmart attorney Evans Edwards said in Circuit Court two weeks ago that employee-on-employee violence is a matter for workers’ compensation and not a lawsuit, unless it’s a personal matter between the aggressor and the victim.
Edwards said the rampage was aimed at the entire shift, and the shooter shot at numerous other co-workers besides Tyler.
Tyler’s attorney Mark Favaloro told Telfeyan that “my client did not fall off a ladder”… and Tyler — in just her seventh week on the job on the overnight shift — would have had no reasonable expectation of getting shot at.
Favaloro said it was personal because the shooter told another employee she could go home, right after aiming and firing at Tyler missing her by inches, according to her lawsuit. Favaloro said the shooter later decided to chase Tyler and fired additional shots at her as they entered the retail portion of the store on Battlefield Boulevard.
Had Telfeyan upheld the claims of gross negligence or willful and wanton negligence, it would have exposed Walmart to a higher level of liability at trial.