Wikimedia Commons/Mike Mozart
HOUSTON — A Texas appeals court has sided with a lower court's decision awarding a woman thousands of dollars in damages for slipping on a grape in a Wal-Mart store. In an opinion filed earlier this month in the Fourteenth Court of Appeals, Justice Jerry Zimmerer overruled the company's issues in their breach-of-contract case.
Elizabeth Shirey was shopping at a Wal-Mart in July of 2015 when she slipped on a grape and fell. Shirey got hurt and required surgery for the injuries she received. She sued the company. Wal-Mart asked Federal District Court for a summary judgment, the court complied on the liability claim, but dismissed a negligence accusation.
Wal-Mart's attorney sent Shirey's lawyer an e-mail on March 29, 2017. In it, Wal-Mart's lawyer wrote the company was offering $35,000 to settle the case, and that if the offer was rejected they would be taking it to trial. The e-mail stated that a $35,000 offer was good until 3 p.m., on Friday, March 31, 2017.
The very next day, the court issued an opinion granting summary judgement, and 47 minutes after the notice Shirey's attorney accepted the company's offer in an e-mail. Wal-Mart's attorney replied with the court and accepted their motion prior to Shirey accepting the offer. Shirey's lawyer wrote back noting Shirey accepted their offer before the deadline set by the company and warned if the company didn't carry out their offer she'd file a breach of contract, which is what happened.
The trial court ended up awarding Shirey the initial $35,000 the company had agreed to, plus $1,647.50 in attorney's fees, and $342.58 in prejudgement interest after she requested reasonable attorney's fees.
Wal-Mart appealed arguing the trial court made a mistake granting a summary judgement. The company claimed the e-mails were informal and didn't make for a binding settlement. They also felt there was a lack of consideration for the alleged agreement; however, the appeals court found both parties entered into a valid contract and kept the same conclusion as that of the trial court.