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Walmart Must Give Security, Crime Data to Mass Shooting Victims

March 29, 2021, 10:32 PM

Walmart Inc. failed to convince a Texas appeals court that a judge exceeded his authority when he ordered the retailer to turn over a a slew of discovery-related documents in a civil action brought against it by victims, or their families, of a mass shooting in El Paso in 2019.

Patrick Wood Crusius has been charged with opening fire on patrons in and around the Texas store, killing 22 and injuring many more. A civil suit was filed in state court, alleging the retailer should be held liable for negligence including in failing to secure its premises in light of other shootings and crimes.

Included among the allegations is that Walmart rates its stores based on their crime potential yet allocates resources disproportionately toward its outlets in more affluent, less crime-prone areas.

As part of that case, the lower court ordered Walmart to disclose numerous documents including those related to an incident in Amarillo where two Walmart employees were taken hostage in 2016, third-party security reports, and store security budgets in El Paso and San Antonio, among other topics. Corporate minutes related to a meeting where security was discussed was also ordered to be produced.

Walmart filed a writ of mandamus saying Judge Sergio Enriquez was wrong to order disclosure of these and other documents, but that writ was mostly rejected by an appeals court March 26.

The Texas Appeals Court for the Eighth District held that the trial court was within his authority to order the information released, including on the store security budgets, and even Black Friday security information and transaction counts.

The appeals court did, however, find that the trial court overreached by ordering production of crime-driven policy changes made at Texas stores and some third-party information held by the retailer. But the appeals court left the door open for the plaintiffs to refile a more narrowly scoped discovery request.

The order on third-party reports, which included documents from National Retail Federation’s Active Shooter Guidelines, was also found to be overly broad. The appeals court conditionally granted Walmart’s requested relief as to these reports, but did so without prejudice to the trial court limiting the order as to time and scope.

In addition to the El Paso shooting, a gunman shot and killed three Walmart shoppers in 2017 in Thornton, Colo. And, three days before Crusius allegedly opened fire, another armed man killed two people and injured another in a Walmart store in Southaven, Miss.

Walmart is represented by Alexander Dubose & Jefferson LLP.

Justice Jeff Alley wrote the opinion. Chief Justice Yvonne T. Rodriguez and Justice Gina M. Palafox joined in the decision.

The case is In re Walmart Inc. & Wal-Mart Stores Tex. LLC, Tex. App., No. 08-20-00191-CV, 3/26/21.

To contact the reporter on this story: David McAfee in Los Angeles at dmcAfee@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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