Marketing displays blamed for woman's fall at Wal-Mart

By Kelly Holleran | Oct 12, 2009

A woman claims she slipped and fell on a trail of spilled soda because Wal-Mart focuses customers' attention on marketing displays and away from unexpected hazards.

While shopping at Wal-Mart Supercenter No. 449 in Groves, Maria Castillo claims an employee dragged a pallet of broken soda bottles across the store leaving a trail of liquid.

Castillo, and her husband Ocar, filed a complaint Oct. 2 in Jefferson County District Court against Wal-Mart Stores Texas, Wal-Mart Stores, Pepsico, Pepsi-Cola Bottling Group, Pepsi-Cola Metropolitan Bottling Co., Bottling Group LLC, PBG Texas, Moncla's Inc. and Moncla's Investments Inc.

Moncla's is a family owned business based in Beaumont.

According to the suit, Castillo slipped on liquid that had collected in the drink section. Castillo claims she was exercising reasonable care for her own safety and well being and was unaware of the spill.

"Further examination after Plaintiff fell revealed that the liquid trailed all the way down the aisle back to a main aisle of the store, which continued all the way to the rear of the store," the suit states.

"The trail ended next to the pallet of drinks where a pool of liquid had collected, which revealed that the Wal-Mart and/or Pepsi and/or Moncla's employee that moved the pallet of drinks created a continuous spill of material from the rear of the store to the drink aisle where the pallet was left and where the liquid continued to leak for a lengthy period of time to create a pool of liquid next to the pallet."

Castillo claims she received injuries to her arm, back and body which are permanently incapacitating.

The plaintiffs allege Wal-Mart failed to follow the rules, regulations and policies to prevent and remove the hazard, failed to cordon off the area of the spill to protect customers and failed to alert shoppers to the hazardous condition.

"Whatsmore, Wal-Mart consciously and deliberately employed a marketing strategy to attract customers' attention to goods on display," the complaint states. "This consequently focused customers' attention away from unexpected dangerous conditions on walkways.

"Thereby Wal-Mart actually increased the likelihood that this unexpected dangerous condition would not be discovered by Maria Castillo. Further, this liquid trail was not cleaned, guarded or cordoned off by Wal-Mart employees."

At the time of her fall, Castillo was 38 years old and was projected to have a work-life expectancy of 22 years, the complaint says. Because of the fall, she claims her earning capacity was diminished.

In addition, she incurred medical costs, lost earnings and experienced physical pain, suffering, mental anguish, physical impairment and physical disfigurement, according to the complaint.

The suit accuses defendants of negligence and gross negligence.

The Castillos are seeking actual and exemplary damages, plus pre- and post-judgment interest, costs and other relief the court deems just. Her husband, Oscar Castillo, is seeking damages for loss of comfort, society and household services important and vital to a marital relationship.

Gilbert T. Adams and Alto V. Watson III of the Law Offices of Gilbert T. Adams in Beaumont will be representing them.

The case has been assigned to Judge Milton Shuffield, 136th District Court.

Jefferson County District Court case number: D185-056.

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