When shopping baskets attack

The SE Texas Record Jun. 7, 2008, 10:29am

Perhaps Beaumont residents Mary Bourne and Deborah Parker should form a support group, or a legislative lobby.

Anything to sound a public alarm to the subtle dangers lurking in the aisles of our favorite discount retailers.

We're talking about the menace posed by shopping carts and baskets.

We weren't aware of the danger until we read their mournful tales in The Record this week.

Parker's began with a trip to the West End Target two years ago. As she dared to get a cart herself, a store employee inadvertently bumped her with a stack of carts he was herding into the cart corral.

Can you imagine the horror?

Bourne probably can. She was checking out of the Wal-Mart store on Dowlen Road last October when she stepped into a hand-held shopping basket on the floor and fell.

"The hand-held shopping basket posed an unreasonable risk of harm," her complaint proclaims.

Bourne says Wal-Mart should have instructed her how to avoid the basket. Parker said Target should warn customers of the dangers lurking in its "shopping cart holding area."

Both women are now blaming and claiming.

They blame the stores for failing to contain the shopping apparatus threat--and claim they are due tens of thousands of dollars for their alleged troubles, plus attorneys fees, of course.

Bourne and Parker filed their shopping cart/basket lawsuits in Jefferson County Court on May 29 and 30. No word yet as to whether their attorneys, Gilbert Adams and Charlton Hornsby, plan to share cart/basket legal theories. Both cases have been assigned to Judge Bob Wortham, the venerable former assistant district and U.S. attorney who made his name prosecuting RICO cases.

He must be thrilled.

As for resolution of the suits, it could come in several forms worth pondering. Particularly by those of us who won't be in Judge Wortham's courtroom when arguments are made.

On one hand, the cases could be dismissed as trumped-up, opportunistic attempts to cash in on personal clumsiness or a harmless accident. On another, they could linger, eventually forcing Wal-Mart and Target to not only pay Bourne and Parker, but also take action to protect themselves against being held liable in future cart/basket lawsuits.

What would that look like?

We envision a future with shopping baskets festooned in bright yellow and orange, covered with exclamation-adorned warnings screaming in multiple languages. Shoppers will receive helmets and elbow pads and watch a training video before embarking to the Home & Garden department.

You'll know who to thank.

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