Legal Precedents for Black Friday Stampede

Should Wal-mart have anticipated a greater need for security measures during  Black Friday? That is the legal question that the Nassau County district attorney will attempt to answer when bringing charges against Wal-mart. 

The chaos that ensued in the Nassau County store on Black Friday led to the death of a security guard that was fatally trampled by shoppers heading into the store for bargain hunting. Evidence, including employee records and surveillance film of the store, is being reviewed  to piece together the scenario  where Jdimytai Damour, 34, of Jamaica, was trampled to death as he stood next to the front door.

Hank Mullany, president of Wal-Mart’s Northeastern Division, said, “We expected a large crowd on Friday and added additional internal security, additional third-party security, additional store associates and we worked closely with the Nassau County Police. We also erected barricades. Despite all of our precautions, this unfortunate event occurred.”

Model legal precedents for Nassau County prosecutors to follow stem from a fatal nightclub fire in Rhode Island and a deadly stampede at a
Bronx concert.

During a nightclub performance by the Great White in 2003, pyrotechnics lit during a concert sparked a fire that killed 100 people. The owners of the Rhode Island nightclub pleaded no contest to charges of involuntary manslaughter.  

In contrast, in the Bronx incident, where nine people died in a stampede after too many tickets had been sold, criminal charges were considered, but never filed against promoters of a 1991 AIDS benefit concert at City College.

The difference in legal outcomes between the Rhode Island and Bronx cases is because the court determined that the owners of the Rhode Island nightclub could have reasonably foreseen the potential for disaster; while the Bronx promoters were not able to reasonably foresee – and therefore, prevent – their disaster.

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