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Garcia v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
209 F.3d 1170 (1998)


Mary Garcia (plaintiff) was shopping at Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (Wal-Mart) (defendant) when she was struck by a cart pushed by a Wal-Mart employee and knocked to the floor, injuring her back. Garcia’s back had already been causing her pain prior to this incident. Before she was hit, Garcia owned and operated a burrito shop. After being hit with the cart, Garcia was physically unable to continue running her business, which she then turned over to her sister-in-law. At trial, Garcia’s treating physicians testified that she had suffered from chronic degenerative-disc disease before being struck. Several physicians and one psychologist testified that while Garcia might be suffering from physical pain due to her injury, a portion of the pain might also have been psychological. Garcia testified that she had not sought psychological treatment because she could not afford it. An economist testified to Garcia’s economic losses from her inability to pursue her business. Wal-Mart offered no evidence of available jobs that Garcia could perform, but instead only presented a medical expert who said that Garcia could do light or sedentary work. Wal-Mart submitted proposed jury instructions on mitigation of damages. The district court did not instruct the jury on mitigation of damages, finding that (1) Garcia was not required to seek psychological treatment she could not afford and (2) Garcia’s business required her personal involvement, such that hiring others to operate the business would be futile and not appropriate mitigation. Wal-Mart did not object to the district court’s refusal to instruct on mitigation. The jury found for Garcia and awarded damages for non-economic losses, economic losses, and physical impairment in the total amount of $350,000. Wal-Mart appealed, arguing that the district court erred in not instructing the jury on mitigation because Garcia had failed to mitigate by (1) not seeking psychological treatment and (2) not employing others to operate her business.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Lucero, J.)

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