Multi-Million-Dollar Award in CVS Shooting Continues Nuclear Verdict Trend

A Georgia court upheld a nearly $43 million verdict against CVS after a man was shot in a parking lot at one of the pharmacy's Atlanta locations.

Source: Legal Line | Published on November 16, 2021

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On Nov. 1, the state Court of Appeals refused to overturn the $42.75 million verdict in favor of James Carmichael, who was shot multiple times by an unknown assailant in December 2012.

Carmichael blamed CVS for his severe and long-term injuries, blaming the company for failing to implement simple security measures such as adequate lighting or security guards.

“At trial, many current and former Moreland Avenue CVS store employees testified as to the store’s conditions. Numerous employees testified that the store was located in a high-crime area,” Judge Yvette Miller wrote.

“CVS’s employees and managers considered the parking lot at the Moreland Avenue store unsafe, to the point that male employees regularly walked female employees to their cars. The employees would also park close to the building because of the spotty lighting in the parking lot.

Two employees respectively rated the safety problems at the store as an 8 and 9 out of 10. Three employees testified that they were ‘not surprised’ that Carmichael was shot on the premises.”

Carmichael was waiting for an acquaintance to sell him an iPad in December 2012. He chose CVS because he believed a large national chain such as it would provide a secure environment.

Instead, a gun was placed to his head. Carmichael took out his belongings, but he also had his own gun, which jammed as he attempted to defend himself. Carmichael was shot in the stomach, back, and shoulder by the assailant.

Carmichael dashed into the store for assistance after collapsing into a coma for a month. He has permanent nerve damage, hearing loss, speech problems, and pain as a result of multiple surgeries. His medical bills totaled $725,800.
The court ruled that his lawyers successfully argued that CVS knew something like that could happen in its parking lot but chose not to act. Within two years of Carmichael's shooting, an armed robbery of a cashier, a purse-snatching of a customer, and an armed robbery of an employee were all submitted as evidence.

“CVS’s own employees, including its managers, considered the parking lot unsafe, and the store’s employees repeatedly requested security guards based on these and other incidents, but their requests were denied,” Miller wrote.

“From all this evidence, the jury could conclude the robbery of Carmichael was foreseeable to CVS.”

CVS attempted to blame Carmichael for selling the iPad to someone who could have been dangerous, but the would-be buyer was not charged with a crime after being arrested initially.

“Thus, there was some evidence from which the jury could conclude that the attack on Carmichael was perpetrated by a total stranger and not by someone with whom he had a pre-existing relationship,” the ruling says.

The jury also refused to assign blame to the unknown shooter, instead awarding CVS 95% of a $45 million verdict (Carmichael was found 5 percent at fault).

Because Carmichael opened fire first, “it is possible that the jury either found that the robber ended up shooting in self-defense and was worthy of no fault or that the jury instead assigned the amount of fault it would have assigned to the shooter to Carmichael instead,” according to the ruling.