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Carolinas Verdicts

Find out about the most important recent North and South Carolina cases, selected by VerdictSearch editors. Coverage includes Gaston, Mecklenburg and Wake counties in North Carolina and Charleston, Horry and Richland in South Carolina.

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Needle stick was due to poor parking lot maintenance: suit

Amount:

$4,618,500

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

South Carolina

Venue:

Anderson County

Court:

Anderson County, Court of Common Pleas

Injury Type(s):

other-loss of consortium; hand/finger-hand

Case Type:

Premises Liability - Store, Parking Lot, Dangerous Condition, Negligent Repair and/or Maintenance

Case Name:

Carla Denise Garrison and Clinton Michael Garrison v. Target Corp., No. 2014-CP-0401426

Date:

September 9, 2016

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Carla Denise Garrison (Female, 36 Years), 

Clinton Michael Garrison (Male, 37 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Joshua T. Hawkins; J.T. Hawkins Law Firm, LLC; Greenville, SC, for Carla Denise Hawkins, Clinton Michael Hawkins

Defendant(s):

Target Corp.

Defense Attorney(s):

Knox L. Haynsworth III; Brown, Massey, Evans, McLeod & Haynsworth, LLC; Greenville, SC, for Target Corp.

Insurer(s):

self-insured for Target Corp. (primary policy up to $4.5 million)

Facts:

On May 21, 2014, plaintiff Carla Denise Garrison, 34, a homemaker, parked her vehicle in the parking lot of a Target store located at 3519 Clemson Blvd. in Anderson. Her eight-year-old daughter, Kaileigh, was with her as she ran the errand. After Garrison and her daughter exited the vehicle, Garrison saw her daughter holding a hypodermic needle the girl had found among other debris in the parking lot. As Garrison tried to remove the needle from her daughter's grasp, the needle stuck Garrison in the palm of her right hand. Garrison reported the incident to one of the store's employees. Garrison was treated at a local hospital. Garrison sued the premise's owner, Target Corp., alleging that Target was negligent in its maintenance of the premises. Garrison's husband, Clinton Michael Garrison, filed a separate lawsuit against Target Corp. claiming loss of consortium stemming from Target Corp.'s negligence. The cases were consolidated into a single action that named Carla Garrison and her husband as co-plaintiffs. The Garrisons contended that Target Corp. failed to maintain the parking lot in a reasonably safe manner, creating a hazardous condition for customers visiting the store. The Garrisons claimed the parking lot's condition was dangerous and that Target Corp.'s negligence was the sole proximate cause of the incident. The Garrisons claimed that Target Corp. failed review records related to cleaning and maintaining the parking lot and failed to make sure routine cleanings were completed. The Garrisons claimed the parking lot was intended to be cleaned by an outside contractor once each week, every Thursday night, and the company's employee in charge of maintaining the parking lot did not maintain a log or ensure that the cleaning truck came. The Garrisons claimed it was obvious the parking lot had not been properly maintained; debris and dangerous trash had been left in the parking lot for more than four months; and the employee in charge of maintaining the parking lot should have noticed the poor condition of the parking lot and should have intervened. Further, the Garrisons claimed that, after the property management technician had been deposed, Clinton Garrison visited the premises on a Thursday night at the time the cleaning truck was intended to service the parking lot. They asserted that Clinton Garrison found that the cleaning truck never came to service the parking lot during the time it was intended. The Garrisons argued that the employee who was designated to maintain the parking lot did not keep adequate records of the parking lot's maintenance. According to plaintiffs' counsel, pictures taken by Clinton Garrison demonstrated Target's lack of care related to its maintenance of the parking lot and that dangerous materials left in the parking lot for long periods of time were excluded as evidence at trial. Additionally, plaintiffs' counsel asserted that, after Carla Garrison reported the hypodermic needle incident, Target Corp. employees lost the needle. The defense contended that the subject Target store complained about the corporation's safety and cleaning procedures and kept the premises maintained in a reasonably safe manner. The defense argued that Carla Garrison was not injured by the needle and was contributorily negligent. The defense contended that, while Target owes its customers the duty of exercising ordinary care to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition, it was not responsible for Carla Garrison's safety.

Injury:

After the incident, Carla Garrison was taken/drove to the emergency room at AnMed Health Medical Center in Anderson. She told emergency room physicians about what had happened. Her right hand was cleaned and she was tested for HIV and hepatitis. The tests results were negative. She was released from the hospital that day with a course of antiretroviral medications to take at her home. After she was discharged to her home, Carla Garrison was administered a course of HIV drugs. She claimed the HIV medications made her sick, causing her to be confined to her bed for a period of one week after the incident. During that time, Clinton Garrison alleged that he was required to take off from work and care for his wife while she was being administered the HIV drugs. The Garrisons alleged that Target Corp. was liable for Carla Garrison's medical bills, as well as damages for past pain and suffering and punitive damages. The Garrisons also claimed Target was responsible for paying Clinton Garrison's lost wages for the time he was caring for his wife, or an estimated $2,000. Clinton Garrison also sought damages for loss of consortium. The defense contended that it was not responsible for payment of Carla Garrison's emergency room visit, nor any other hospital and medical expenses.

Result:

The jury determined that Target Corp. was negligent and its negligence was the cause of Carla Garrison's injuries. The jury awarded actual damages of $100,000 to Carla Garrison, as well as $4.51 million in punitive damages for what the jury determined were the willful, wanton and reckless actions of Target. Additionally, the jury awarded $5,000 for loss of consortium and $3,500 in past lost wages to Carla's husband, Clinton Garrison. The court will be required to determine whether punitive damages will be capped at $500,000 or $2 million, as per South Carolina law.

Carla Denise Hawkins: $4,510,000 Personal Injury: Punitive Exemplary Damages; $100,000 Personal Injury: actual damages; Clinton Michael Hawkins: $3,500 Personal Injury: Past Lost Earnings Capability; $5,000 Personal Injury: loss of consortium

Trial Information:

Judge:

Richard Shirley

Demand:

$12,000

Offer:

$750

Trial Length:

3  days

Trial Deliberations:

2  hours

Jury Vote:

12-0

Jury Composition:

4 male/ 8 female

Post Trial:

The defense filed a motion to set aside the verdict and reduce the jury's award, which was pending at the time of publication.

Editor's Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiffs' counsel. Defense counsel did not respond to the reporter's phone calls.