One Year after Va. Walmart Shooting, Lawsuits Could be Upended by Workers’ Comp Laws 

30 Nov, 2023 Liz Carey

                               

Chesapeake, VA (WorkersCompensation.com) – More than a year after a mass shooting killed six Walmart employee and several others injured, several pending lawsuits could test the limits of Virginia’s workers’ compensation laws.  

On Nov. 20, WAVY reported Judge Stephen Telfeyan found at least one of the lawsuits pending against Walmart could go forward. Attorneys for Briana Tyler, an employee at the Chesapeake Walmart when the shooting started, said Tyler’s lawsuit could go forward on the grounds that Walmart knew the shooter had a history with other employees, and that it failed to fire the shooter prior to the action, despite its knowledge.  

Tyler cannot, however, pursue claims that Walmart was either grossly or willfully negligent, Telfeyan ruled.  

On Nov. 22, 2022, night shift manager Andre Marcus Bing entered the Chesapeake Walmart around 10:00 p.m. According to police reports, Bing shot a specific co-worker before moving to a breakroom where an overnight shift meeting was in progress. Bing interrupted the meeting and shot several employees. Bing then exited the breakroom where he fired at least 10 shot while walking the aisles of the store.  

Police said he was targeting specific co-workers and continued to shoot them even after they’d fallen to ensure they were dead. He was allegedly carrying a list with him of employees he was targeting. Six Walmart employees were killed: Randy Blevins, 70; Fernando Chavez-Barron, 16; Tyneka Johnson, 22; Lorenzo Gamble, 43; Brian Pendleton, 38; and Kellie Pyle, 52. 

Officials found Bing dead in the store, apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. In an investigation of Bing’s apartment, police found a short suicide note where he wrote about his problems with women – “My true intent was never to murder anyone, believe it or not, I was actually one of the most loving people in the world if you got to know me. I just wanted a wife that was equally yoked as I and obsessed over the thought; however, I didn't deserve a wife." 

"The entire Walmart family is heartbroken by the loss of the valued members of our team,” Walmart said in a statement after one of the lawsuits was filed. “Our deepest sympathies go out to our associates and everyone impacted, including those who were injured. We are focused on supporting all our associates with significant resources, including counseling. We are reviewing the Complaint and will be responding as appropriate with the court.” 

In one lawsuit, the victim accused Walmart of being negligent by hiring and continuing to employ the shooter despite knowledge that he had had disturbing interactions with staff for months prior to the incident.  

Attorneys said Walmart should have known about the gunman's "violent propensities," but that the company failed to "enact any preventative measures to keep Walmart customers and employees safe." 

Employees at the store described Bing as “difficult” and known to be hostile to other employees.  

At least four lawsuits totaling more than $50 million have been filed against Walmart.  

Donya Prioleau, an employee who was in the room during the shooting and is now suing Walmart for $50 million, said she noticed Bing’s aggressive behavior and reported it to company officials. In September, she submitted a formal written complaint about his behavior. Prioleau said the store did nothing. Even her mother approached the store to discuss Bing’s behavior and her daughter’s safety.  

But Walmart attorney Evans Edwards said in court that employee-on-employee violence is a matter for workers’ compensation and not a lawsuit. He argued that since the rampage was against an entire shift and not a specific person, it was a workplace matter covered by workers’ compensation.  

Attorneys for plaintiffs said it was not a workers’ compensation injury.  

Tyler’s attorney Mark Favaloro said in court “my client did not fall off a ladder…” and that his client, in her seventh week at work, could not reasonably suspect that there was a chance she would get shot. Additionally, he said, since the attack was personal it would not be covered by workers’ compensation, citing how Bing told one co-worker to go home, then shot at Tyler and chased her through the store as he fired at her.  

While Tyler was not wounded, a bullet went through the hood of her jacket. Tyler’s lawsuit claims physical injuries, extreme pain and suffering, and numerous emotional and psychological after effects, along with lost wages and medical costs.  


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    About The Author

    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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