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Trampled wal-mart shopper has history of injury claims

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
Report: Woman Has Filed 16 Previous Claims, 9 At Wal-Mart Stores
Tony Pipitone, WKMG-Local 6 News

POSTED: 5:25 p.m. EST December 4, 2003
UPDATED: 10:49 a.m. EST December 5, 2003

ORANGE CITY, Fla. -- A woman reported "trampled" last Friday by Wal-Mart shoppers desperate for $29.87 DVD players has a long history of claiming injuries from Wal-Marts and other businesses where she worked or shopped.

Patricia Vanlester, 41, was knocked unconscious and, her sister said, "trampled by a herd of elephants" by a stampede of shoppers reaching for DVD players that went on sale at 6 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving, according to Orange City police and the sister, Linda Ellzey.


The story was picked up by the Associated Press and carried in newspapers and other media as far away as Australia and China, an example -- some commentators have opined -- of American excess during the holiday shopping season.

An investigation by WKMG-Local 6 reveals Vanlester has filed 16 previous claims of injuries at Wal-Mart stores and other places she has shopped or worked, according to Wal-Mart, court files and state records. Her sister, who accompanied her Friday on the visit to Wal-Mart, has also filed a prior injury claim against Wal-Mart, with Vanlester as her witness, a company spokeswoman said yesterday.

Asked whether Vanlester's frequent injury claims might cast doubt on the veracity of her latest allegation, her attorney, David L. Sweat, of Port Orange, said, "No comment." He did stress, though, that Vanlester "has not filed a claim nor have we decided to file one" related to last week's incident.

Wal-Mart is reviewing store videotapes "as we look into the claim," spokeswoman Karen Burk said from the massive retailer's Bentonville, Ark., headquarters. "We will investigate this claim as thoroughly as we have the other 10 claims that this customer and her sister have brought against our stores in the past."

Vanlester, who worked at Wal-Marts in Mt. Dora and Orange City in 1996 and 1997, declined comment through her mother, Barbara Rastellini, with whom she owns a home here.


Vanlester spent at least two days in Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach last weekend and today was back in the hospital "having a procedure done," Sweat said. He did not know if the procedure was related to the Wal-Mart incident.

Vanlester has for years complained of head, back, neck, leg or arm pain caused by slipping and falling, objects falling on her and other accidents, according to medical records in a public court file examined by WKMG-Local 6. In fact, her sister says she was wearing a neck brace at the time of last Friday's incident because of injuries from a years-old car accident.

According to state worker's compensation records and court files at the Volusia County courthouse in DeLand, here's some of what Vanlester has claimed over the years under some of her various legal last names: Rastellini, Findley, Crabtree, Platt and Vanlester.

In 1978 and 1982, more than $400 in worker's compensation was paid after she claimed injuries from being struck by a falling object and from slipping and falling while working as a machine operator at a now-defunct manufacturing plant in DeLand.
In 1984, she claimed a back sprain from working at a restaurant in Winter Haven, producing $356 in worker's compensation.
In 1987, she filed an injury claim against Deltona Lanes, a Volusia County bowling alley, after claiming she slipped and fell while bowling there. In a 1993 sworn deposition in another case, Vanlester testified she received a cash settlement from the bowling alley claim, but did not recall the amount.
In 1989, after her car ran off Interstate 4 in Volusia and overturned, she filed a claim against Big T Tire and Wheel Service, of Orange City, claiming the crash was caused by a tire blowout. She testified she received a cash settlement in that case, as well.
In 1991, she claimed to have slipped on a puddle of hand lotion while shopping for a curling iron at an Orange City Walgreen's, causing "permanent injury, disability, disfigurement (and) mental anguish." She filed suit in 1993, but it was thrown out in January 1994 after a 10-minute hearing. Walgreen's argued no one at the store had seen any liquid on the floor, so it could not be liable for failing to clean it up.
In 1995, Vanlester reported slipping and falling on liquid or grease while working in the meat department of a Eustis Publix, resulting in more than $1,200 in worker's compensation.
In 1996, she claimed to have slipped and fallen while working at the layaway desk of a Mt. Dora Wal-Mart, leading to more than $600 in worker's compensation payments.
In 1997, she claimed a back strain while working at the snack bar of an Orange City Wal-Mart that was replaced by the Wal-Mart Superstore where she claims to have been trampled last Friday.

Burk, the Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said she could not reveal exactly how much Wal-Mart has paid in medical expenses and direct payments to Vanlester as a result of her nine claims, but said the total was in the "thousands."

Nor could she provide details on the injury claim Wal-Mart received from her sister, Ellzey, 48, of Inglis, Fla., except to say Vanlester was listed as a witness to the injury.




Ellzey said in an earlier interview that Wal-Mart should have foreseen the danger of unleashing shoppers on a huge bargain at 6 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving. "For several years, every time they do this, people get trampled," she said last week, adding, "I'm panicked. I'm afraid to go into any stores, especially Wal-Mart."

This week, Ellzey has not returned repeated calls seeking comment. But her widely-reported characterization of the incident last Friday as a trampling by a "herd of elephants" has provoked much comment around the world.

Syndicated columnist George Will used it to bemoan the death of Puritanism at the hand of Christmas excess, calling department stores "cathedrals of consumption." A Portland, Ore., Web site carried the story under the headline, "Capitalism's Greatest Hits."
post #2 of 21
Very interesting!
post #3 of 21
Oh really?

Looks like her game is up!
post #4 of 21
Thread Starter 
here i felt sorry for her,then i read this article
post #5 of 21

Very interesting.

Hmmmm...either this woman is a candidate for the world's unluckiest person, or she's trying to take advantage. I see a SNL skit in the making.

What makes this hard to swallow is that you'd think that she'd at least have learned to be a little more careful, over the years. : Most people learn from their mishaps.

But I still think Wal-Mart should try setting up some sort of crowd control measures for their big sales, like giving out tickets to the first arrivals.
post #6 of 21
Nevermind Walmart, this woman should never leave her house. It sounds like a strong wind would put her out of commission.
post #7 of 21
Quote:
Originally posted by glentheman20
Nevermind Walmart, this woman should never leave her house. It sounds like a strong wind would put her out of commission.
post #8 of 21
Quote:
Originally posted by glentheman20
Nevermind Walmart, this woman should never leave her house. It sounds like a strong wind would put her out of commission.
Well, if a strong wind was to hurt her, who would she sue? Mother nature?
post #9 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by Kiwideus
Well, if a strong wind was to hurt her, who would she sue? Mother nature?
she probably would
post #10 of 21
This woman probably lives close to me, that is my walmart. I'm thinking she deserves a flaming bag of poop on her doorstep...

I wonder what a good way to find a picture of this lady would be... if I see her in my WalMart, I'll give her a good talking to!
post #11 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by Louse76
This woman probably lives close to me, that is my walmart. I'm thinking she deserves a flaming bag of poop on her doorstep...
lol she'll probably get some for christmas
post #12 of 21
I hope the newspaper doesn't type the articles about her in font that is too small. She may sue them for mental anguish and eye strain...
post #13 of 21
That's just lovely. She probably took a dive in front of the crowd.
post #14 of 21
She sounds like a professional "fall down" artist. Maybe she should team up with the guy who's taken 9 falls - all of them in casinos.
post #15 of 21
She is probably already married to him
post #16 of 21


Can you picture a day at their house together? Do you think every surface in their home would be heavily padded, or would they just blame each other for accidents?
post #17 of 21
Quote:
Well, if a strong wind was to hurt her, who would she sue? Mother
nature?
LOL! She'd probably watch The Man Who Sued God for tactics.

But on a serious note...

Why did she go to the sales knowing that it would be insanely crazy and packed full of crazy customers, (I mean, she HAS worked at Wal-Mart before), while she was wearing a neck brace????? Don't people wearing neck braces get told by their doctors not to do anything strenuous?????? She could have been ignoring medical advice....

Hmm...if the lawyers go on that point of view I wonder whether the case would receive a payout, let alone make it to court.
post #18 of 21
that is so funny Deb, the way you put that, i agree with you
post #19 of 21
Quote:
Originally posted by a_loveless_gem
LOL! She'd probably watch The Man Who Sued God for tactics.
I was waiting for someone to say this.

Gosh, I really did for sorry for her before now I know it's her fault, she must be nuts.

By the way you guys all made me LOL!
post #20 of 21
Thread Starter 
anyone hear any updated on this story?
post #21 of 21
All I can say is that I hope she loses.

But watch out media... she'll be wanting to sue them next claiming that all the publicity made it impossible for her to plead her case.

But hey... all might not be lost for her. If it was indeed caught on camera, maybe she can try out for America's Funniest Home Videos???? There's $10,000 riding on that fall.

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