Travis A. Roddey, as the Personal Representative of the Estate of Alice Monique Beckham Hancock, deceased, Petitioner,
Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, U.S. Security Associates, Inc., and Derrick L. Jones, Respondents
October 8, 2015.
From Lancaster County. Brooks P. Goldsmith, Circuit Court
Judge. Appellate Case No. 2012-213375.
Nichols and Blake Alexander Hewitt, both of Bluestein Nichols
Thompson & Delgado, LLC, of Columbia; S. Randall Hood and
William Angus McKinnon, both of McGowan Hood & Felder,
LLC, of Rock Hill; and Brent Paul Stewart, of Stewart Law
Offices, LLC, of Rock Hill, for Petitioner.
Howard Boyd, Jr., and Stephanie G. Flynn, both of Gallivan,
White & Boyd, PA, of Greenville, for Respondents.
and HEARN, JJ., concur. PLEICONES, C.J., dissenting in a
separate opinion in which KITTREDGE, J., concurs.
WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS
appeals the court of appeals' decision affirming the
trial court's grant of Wal-Mart's motion for a
directed verdict on Petitioner's negligence claim. We
reverse and remand for a new trial.
following facts are undisputed. On June 20, 2006, Alice
Hancock waited in her vehicle in the parking lot of Wal-Mart
while her sister, Donna Beckham, attempted to shoplift
several articles of clothing. Hope Rollings, a Wal-Mart
customer service manager, noticed Beckham attempting to
shoplift and alerted several other employees, including
fellow manager Shawn Cox and the on-duty security guard
Derrick Jones of U.S. Security Associates, Inc. (USSA), which
provided security in the Wal-Mart parking lot pursuant to a
contract with Wal-Mart.
Beckham exited Wal-Mart without the clothing. However, Jones
approached her in the parking lot. Beckham ran towards
Hancock's vehicle, and Jones followed her in his truck
and blocked Hancock's vehicle with his truck. After
Beckham entered Hancock's vehicle, Hancock turned the
vehicle around and drove towards the parking lot's exit,
with Jones following. Hancock exited the parking lot onto a
highway, and Jones followed. Approximately two miles from
Wal-Mart, Hancock's vehicle left the highway and crashed.
Hancock died at the scene of the accident.
Roddey, the personal representative of Hancock's estate
(Petitioner), brought an action alleging negligence on the
part of Wal-Mart, USSA, and Jones. At trial, there was
varying witness testimony, especially with regard to the
course of events that occurred between Jones and the two
Wal-Mart customer service managers--Rollings and Cox--and
between Jones and Beckham.
testified that when she exited Wal-Mart, she heard Jones
yelling from his vehicle, " Hey, I need to talk to
you." According to Beckham, Jones " zoomed in on
[them]" and blocked Hancock's vehicle as she entered
Hancock's backseat. Beckham testified that she remained
crouched in the backseat as they drove, but looked up
periodically to see Jones following behind them at a close
distance with his emergency lights on and frequently flashing
his high beam headlights. Beckham testified that about two
miles from Wal-Mart, Hancock remarked that " he's
still on our ass," Beckham observed Jones " on
[their] bumper," and then Hancock's vehicle "
shot off to the left" and crashed.
testified that when she saw Beckham attempting to shoplift,
she radioed Cox, and instructed the door greeters to
stop Beckham and ask for a receipt if she exited the store.
Rollings explained that she then walked to the parking lot
and notified Jones of the suspected shoplifting. Rollings
testified that she did not have authority or responsibility
over Jones, and that she did not intend for Jones to
approach, delay, or stop Beckham. Rollings acknowledged that
Wal-Mart policy prohibited employees from pursuing
shoplifters beyond the parking lot, but testified that she
could not radio Jones to tell him to stop pursuing
Hancock's vehicle because only one person could speak
into the radio at a time, and other employees were using the
radio during the incident. Further, she remembered Cox
telling Jones to " [j]ust get the tag number [from
Hancock's vehicle,]" but was unsure whether Cox knew
that Jones was pursuing Hancock's vehicle when Cox gave
the instruction to Jones.
testified that the night of the incident, Rollings notified
her of Beckham's shoplifting. After Beckham abandoned the
clothing and exited Wal-Mart, Cox walked outside and saw
Jones driving down the aisle of the parking lot where
Hancock's vehicle was parked. Cox testified that
Hancock's vehicle struck a median in the parking lot and
headed toward the exit, at which point Cox instructed: "
Get her tag number." Cox testified that she did not
intend for Jones to follow Hancock out of the parking lot and
acknowledged that it was Wal-Mart policy not to pursue
shoplifters, but stated that Jones was not a Wal-Mart
employee. According to Cox, she observed Jones's truck
two car lengths behind Hancock's vehicle as they exited
the parking lot, but that Jones was less than two car lengths
behind as she saw them driving away.
testified that the night of the incident, he received a call
on his radio informing him that Beckham shoplifted and that
she was exiting Wal-Mart. According to Jones, he asked:
" [W]hat do you want me to do because I'm a security
officer; I'm not a police officer. I cannot detain, so
what do you want me to do?" Jones testified that he was
instructed to delay Beckham by talking to her. When he saw
her exit the store, he attempted to engage her in
conversation, at which point she ran to Hancock's
vehicle. Jones testified that he then blocked Hancock's
vehicle with his truck " because the whole time all [he
was] hearing from [Wal-Mart] was, 'You've got to get
that license plate tag. We need that license plate tag
number.'" Jones testified that at the time, he was
under the impression that if he did not get the license plate
tag number, he could be fired for not doing his job.
According to Jones, both Rollings and Cox repeatedly
instructed him to get the license plate tag number. After
telling them that he could not see the tag number and that
Hancock's vehicle was " about to leave the parking
lot," Jones testified that through the radio, someone
said, " Man, well, you got to do what you got to do. You
need to get that license plate tag number."
knew that he was not supposed to leave the parking lot, but
stated that he felt pressure due to the instruction to "
do what you got to do," which Jones interpreted to mean
pursuing Hancock's vehicle beyond the parking lot. Jones
testified that even after he told Wal-Mart employees over the
radio that Hancock's vehicle was leaving the parking lot,
Wal-Mart employees continued to instruct him to obtain the
license plate tag number. Jones stated that he was in radio
communication with Wal-Mart employees until a highway
on-ramp, where he witnessed Hancock's vehicle almost
cause an accident. He then lost sight ...