Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has agreed to pay $1.9 million and improve safety oversight in a deal to avoid possible criminal prosecution in the fatal trampling of a worker during a Black Friday stampede on Long Island last year.
This story first appeared in the May 7, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said Wednesday the retailer will donate $1.5 million to the county’s social services, create a $400,000 victims’ fund and devise an independently approved crowd management plan for post-Thanksgiving sales at its 92 New York stores.
Rice, who suspended the criminal investigation of the stampede as a condition of the agreement, said Wal-Mart would have faced a maximum fine of $10,000 had it been convicted of a felony. The retailer made no admission of guilt.
Prosecutors can reopen the case if the company fails to comply with the terms of the agreement in the next three years.
“Rather than bringing the world’s largest retailer to court and imposing a small fine against them, I felt it was important to require significant safety changes that will affect the whole state,” Rice said.
Hank Mullany, Wal-Mart’s northeast division president, said, “We are saddened by the tragic event that occurred at our Valley Stream store last year. We are committed to learning from it and making our stores even safer for our customers. Today is an important step.”
Jdimytai Damour was temporarily working security through a third-party firm at the entrance to Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, N.Y., on Nov. 29 when as many as 2,000 shoppers rushed the doors at 5 a.m., crushing the guard, who was 6 feet 5 inches and weighed 270 pounds. Some in the crowd had been waiting overnight in anticipation of the discount chain’s day-after-Thanksgiving sales.
The Nassau County medical examiner ruled that Damour, who was 34, died of asphyxiation. The district attorney said 11 other people reported suffering injuries in the incident.
Victims who receive compensation will be required to waive their right to bring a civil suit against the retailer.
Damour’s sister, Elsie Damour Phillipe, filed a wrongful death suit against Wal-Mart in New York State Supreme Court in the Bronx in December. She discontinued the action without prejudice, a legal designation that allows the suit to be filed again. Her lawyer did not return calls seeking comment.