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article imageWal-Mart spends millions to avoid small fine for employee death

By Stephanie Dearing     Jul 7, 2010 in Business
On the day after Thanksgiving, a Wal-Mart employee was killed after shoppers trampled temporary employee, Jdimytai Damour in 2008 in New York.
After an investigation of the Long Island incident, the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Wal-Mart $7,000 for the incident, but instead of paying the fine the world's largest retailer has spent at least $2 million to fight the fine, the New York Times reported Tuesday.
The incident, reported the New York Daily News in 2008, happened after an "... "out-of-control" mob of frenzied shoppers smashed through the Long Island store's front doors," resulting in the death of Damour and injuries to four other shoppers, one of whom was eight months pregnant at the time. One door was taken off its hinges in the stampede.
At the time, police said Wal-Mart had not provided adequate security for its sale event. Wal-Mart was defensive, saying it had provided extra workers for the event, the New York Times reported.
The family of Damour filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Wal-Mart in December of 2008, blaming the corporation for creating the shopping frenzy that resulted in the stampede, said MSNBC.
Last year, Wal-Mart was fined $7,000 for the death of Damour, shocking many. Al Norman wrote about the case in the Huffington Post in May 2009 saying, "... Wal-Mart has managed to walk all over two agencies that were supposed to sanction the giant retailer for the tragic trampling death of one of its employees on Black Friday last November."
Norman related the news that Wal-Mart had managed to get the District Attorney's Office to back off the criminal investigation of the corporation over the death of Damour. In return, Wal-Mart promised to improve its crowd control for Black Friday Thanksgiving sales and to create a victims' fund with $400,000. Wal-Mart also gave $1.5 million to a variety of social service programs in Nassau County, New York.
The deal with the District Attorney's office meant the case went into the realm of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which subsequently laid the highest fine it could on Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart was given 15 days to comply, but instead has spent millions fighting the fine. The New York Times said "... Wal-Mart is arguing that the government is improperly trying to define “crowd trampling” as an occupational hazard that retailers must take action to prevent." Wal-Mart has filed 20 motions in its fight against the OSHA fine, and OSHA told the New York Times that the corporation has spent at least $2 million on legal costs.
Wal-Mart is no stranger to stampedes at its United States stores. There was a stampede at an Elk City store in 2008, with another in 2005. The only death from stampedes at Wal-Mart stores was that of Damour.
Wal-Mart's total sales in 2009 were worth $401.2 billion. The 2009 Annual Report quotes Rob Walton, son of Sam Walton -- the founder of Wal-Mart as saying "My Dad created Wal-Mart to help people save money so they can have a better life. This mission remains as relevant now as it was in 1962.”
Black Friday shopping in the United States has grown increasingly stressful over the years as shoppers try to be the first to nab coveted sale items.
More about Occupational safety health, Stampedes, Trampling, Walmart, Jdimtai damour
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