State supreme court throws out jury award against Kroger

JACKSON — The Mississippi Supreme Court has thrown out a $2.5 million judgment for a Jackson woman who lost sight in one eye when purse-snatchers beat her in a supermarket parking lot.

A Hinds County jury in 2009 found The Kroger Company was negligent in the attack on Linda Knox. The incident occurred in June 2007.

One of Knox’s attackers was sentenced to 25 years in prison; prosecutors dropped charges against the other, who cooperated with them.

Knox’s lawsuit contended that the store should have had an armed guard in the parking lot, rather than inside the store.

In a 4-3 decision Thursday, Presiding Justice Jess Dickinson said Knox did not prove that Kroger had a duty to place an armed guard in its parking lot. Dickinson said Kroger could not be found liable for the unforeseeable attack on Knox.

“But unless Kroger was on notice of an atmosphere of violence in its parking lot, it had no duty to place an armed guard there. And because Knox failed to present sufficient evidence on this point, we must reverse and render,” Dickinson said.

Justice Leslie King, in a dissent joined by two other justices, said the court record showed there had been other incidents in the parking lot of the Kroger store on Interstate 55 north. King said there was testimony that Kroger had security personnel on duty but those guards in the parking lot were unarmed.

“Whether this was sufficient to give Kroger notice of an atmosphere of violence and whether Kroger owed a duty to Knox and other patrons to utilize the armed security personnel in the parking lot is a question of fact to be resolved by the jury.

“By returning a verdict for the plaintiff, the jury clearly found (there was) such a duty,” King said.

Two justices did not participate in the ruling.

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