Walmart asks judge to dismiss Chesapeake mass shooting lawsuits

Kendall Warner/The Virginian-Pilot/TNS

Walmart is asking a judge to dismiss lawsuits recently filed by three employees who claim they narrowly missed being shot when a supervisor opened fire inside a Chesapeake store last month, arguing the law requires them to lodge workers’ compensation complaints instead.

The company’s claims were made in court documents filed last week in Chesapeake Circuit Court in response to lawsuits filed by Donya Prioleau, James Kelly and Briana Tyler.

The three employees were in the store’s break room on Nov. 22 when Andre Bing, a 31-year-old overnight manager, came in and began shooting. Six employees were killed and four others wounded. Police later found a note on Bing’s phone in which he complained of being mocked and harassed by his co-workers.

The employees say Walmart knew about Bing’s “propensity for violence” long before the shooting occurred, and that multiple employees had complained to supervisors about him. Each alleges the retail giant was grossly negligent in its hiring and retention of Bing, and each is seeking $50 million in damages.

Walmart’s attorneys wrote in its court filings that Virginia law prevents employees from seeking personal injury claims when they’re injured by a fellow employee on the job, and instead requires that they file a workers’ compensation complaint. The retailer is being represented by Richmond attorneys Cameron Beck and Gibson Wright. Neither responded to a request from The Virginian-Pilot for more information.

While personal injury complaints allow plaintiffs to seek compensatory and punitive damages for a wide range of claims, workers’ compensation complaints only provides compensation for things like medical expenses and lost wages.

Walmart wrote in its response to the lawsuits that negligent hiring and retention “are not valid causes of action” when one employee intentionally assaults fellow employees. Even if the court allowed the employees to move forward with their claims about negligent hiring and retention, the workers had not offered sufficient information to back up them up, the company’s lawyers argued.

“The Supreme Court of Virginia has never recognized claims for negligent hiring and negligent retention brought by an injured employee against their employer for the tortious actions of a fellow employee,” the lawyers wrote.

The defense lawyers also wrote that the employees had failed to show that Bing was “acting within the scope of his employment” when he shot his co-workers and attempted to shoot others because his “intentional act was not a job-related service.”

Last week, Walmart also began seeking to have the cases handled in U.S. District Court in Norfolk, citing the fact the parties involved reside in multiple states as a reason for transferring it. Each of the people suing lives in Virginia, but Walmart is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Jane Harper,