Wal-Mart Shows Softer Side with Settlements

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Jul 30, 2002
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Bloomberg reports that Wal-Mart has replaced its top lawyer and is settling customer lawsuits that it has fought for years. In the last three months the largest retailer settled longstanding claims ranging from slip-and-fall injuries to abductions of customers in store parking lots, according to lawyers.

Previously those who sued Wal-Mart often found they had to spend more money litigating than they might recover in damages because the company fought claims to the bitter end, lawyers say. Wal-Mart has been punished more than 60 times in the last six years by judges for hiding evidence.

Company officials seem more concerned than their predecessors about the publicity of being sanctioned by judges for keeping evidence from customers and have made their legal department more pro-customer, according to Burt Flickinger, managing partner of Reach Marketing, a retail-industry consulting firm.

Moderator Comment: Will a less litigiously combative Wal-Mart produce positive or negative results for the retailer?

We suppose this shift in policy might appear to make
Wal-Mart more consumer-friendly. We’re not sure consumers care so much about
that as long as they know they are getting the lowest price. This shift in position
may also produce unintended consequences such as increase in nuisance suits
brought against the retailer. [George
Anderson – Moderator
]

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