Texas Appellate Court Reverses Verdict Against Ross Stores in Storeroom Brawl Personal Injury Suit
The Texas Fourteenth Court of Appeals on Tuesday reversed a trial court’s verdict against Ross Stores Inc., in a case involving a man who allegedly suffered injuries during a fight with another co-worker.
In the personal injury suit, the appellant, Ross Stores, Inc., disputed jury findings and evidential insufficiencies that favored the appellee, Joseph Miller.
Miller was employed in the stockroom at Ross Store 334 in Houston, Texas, owned by the store’s subsidiary — Ross Dress for Less, Inc. The appellant contended that the accused was an employee of Ross Dress for Less, and therefore Ross Stores, Inc. did not possess control over the safety protocols.
During his one-month employment period at the Store 334 stockroom, Miller had an altercation with his co-worker, Rashaud Davenport. He reportedly rebuked Davenport during a discussion about the merchandize unloading process, and an argument ensued.
The area supervisor, Sara Decoster, defused the squabble and presented both Davenport and Miller with the choice of either working under outlined conditions or quitting their jobs. They both continued working, but a week later another verbal spat broke out while unloading consignment boxes. This time, Davenport retaliated with a blow to Miller’s face.
Joseph Miller charged Ross Stores, Inc., with allegations of negligence on the part of the appellant in the process of hiring, training, supervision, retention, and monitoring, which resulted in his injuries.
He testified that “all of the employees that worked in the stockroom and at the Ross 334 in Houston were all employees of Roa Dress for Less” and that the store he was employed at was operated by Miller’s “employer, Ross Dress for Less.” He further provided a letter from the employer’s human resource department stating, “We at Ross Stores, Incorporated are sorry to hear you were injured at work.”
The jury awarded $90,000 damages in favor of Miller, finding Ross Stores negligent.
Ross Stores, Inc. presented its appeal, arguing that the procured evidence did not meet the definition of negligence that would constitute liability on the part of a parent company.
A panel from the Texas Fourteenth Court of Appeals, including Justices Tracy Christopher, Frances Bourliot, and Meagan Hassan, agreed by reversing the trial court’s judgment, thereby invalidating Joseph Miller’s claims against Ross Stores, Inc., and leading to him receiving nothing.
“Miller did not present evidence of control required to impose negligence liability on Ross Stores,” the panel said. “Absent a showing of direct participation by Ross Stores in the circumstances precipitating Miller’s injuries, there is no basis for concluding that Ross Stores was required to protect Miller from the injuries that occurred at store 334.”