CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — One of several people suing Walmart after last November’s mass shooting will soon find out if that lawsuit can proceed.
Briana Tyler is suing the giant retailer for $50 million after her shift supervisor killed six people two days before Thanksgiving.
The legal issue at the heart of the debate is the same one in the lawsuit filed by teacher Abby Zwerner, who was shot back in January by a student in her Newport News classroom: Is gunfire in the workplace a matter for workers’ compensation?
Walmart attorney Evans Edwards said in Circuit Court Wednesday morning 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 Judge Stephen Telfeyan “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.
“This was not simply a mass shooting, where everyone who was in that breakroom was to be a victim,” Favaloro said. “As to Briana Tyler, he attempted to kill her. He missed her by inches when he pulled his gun and chased her into the store and shot at her again.”
Tyler’s lawsuit also claims Walmart was negligent because the company did not heed prior complaints about the shooter threatening to kill someone if he would get fired. Walmart attorney Gibson Wright called such claims “scuttlebutt” — but Favaloro said they indicate the shooter’s intentions.
Favaloro said Walmart has not yet released key surveillance video that will help their case.
“That, as we understand it, and this is contained in the complaint, indicated video footage of the chase through the store,” Favaloro said. “So who knows what could be on that tape — there could be talking, there could be anything. We’re looking forward to seeing that.”
Telfeyan said he will look at relevant case law but did not give a specific date on when he will rule on whether they lawsuit can go forward.