New Wal-Mart Case A Study In Proximate Cause

Proximate cause is one of the more difficult concepts for first year law students.  I myself have fond [terrible] memories [nightmares] of Ms. Palsgraff, and I know most of you do, too.

A new suit against Wal-Mart may stretch that concept to its limit.  As reported by the Associated Press and found on, a Nebraska man is suing Wal-Mart in Nebraska federal court for $650,000 over his wife’s death. The facts of the case are these.  The plaintiff’s wife purchased several cans of food at Wal-Mart, which were allegedly overloaded by one of the store’s employees into a plastic bag.  On the way to the car, the bag broke, and one of the cans of food sliced the wife’s foot.  The foot later became infected, and she ultimately died as a result of that infection.

The plaintiff alleges that Wal-Mart failed to properly train its employees to double bag heavy groceries.  The plaintiff has also sued the manufacturer and the distributor of the plastic bag on products liability theories. We believe that there will be significant proximate cause hurdles for the plaintiff to overcome, and a jury will likely struggle with this issue in the same way that a first year law student might.  We will continue to monitor the case in Nebraska federal court and track any significant rulings on proximate cause that arise out of the case.