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Couple sues Wal-Mart over broken grocery bag

Rich Cholodofsky
| Thursday, May 10, 2012, 9:06 p.m.

A Mt. Pleasant Township couple wants Wal-Mart to pay for foot and toe injuries they claim were caused by canned goods and condiments that tumbled from an overfilled plastic grocery bag.

According to a two-count civil lawsuit filed Wednesday in Westmoreland County, Brenda and Ronald Sager contend a plastic bag they brought home from the East Huntingdon Township store last month was deficient and overstuffed.

The bag, which contained a 32-ounce jar of Miracle Whip, a 46-ounce bottle of ketchup, three 15-ounce cans of fruit, an 18-ounce bottle of ranch dressing and a 12-ounce bottle of mustard, broke open when the Sagers returned home and started to put away their groceries.

That's when the handle tore and the bottom of the bag broke, the Sagers claim.

"... all of the contents of said small plastic bag immediately fell onto and struck the right ankle, foot and toes of the plaintiff, Brenda Sager," the lawsuit said.

The 14-page complaint filed by attorney John Scales claims Brenda Sager suffered numerous injuries including cracked and damaged toenails. Brenda Sager also claims she sustained more serious permanent injuries and other physical problems, such as ligament damage and a broken right foot.

The Sagers contend Wal-Mart was at fault for her injuries. The store, they claim, failed to properly instruct and train its employees to correctly bag products, negligently provided a defective bag, recklessly overpacked the bag by placing in it too many heavy items, failed to double- or triple-bag the purchases, and placed Brenda Sager in a "position of peril."

She is seeking damages in excess of $30,000.

Her husband also is seeking that amount in damages, claiming that as a result of his wife's injuries he has been deprived of her attention and comfort and suffered a loss of consortium.

An official of Wal-Mart yesterday denied the accusations.

Store co-manager Scott Kubica said Wal-Mart workers did nothing wrong and did not overpack the Sagers' bag.

"Those bags are good for 10 or 15 pounds," Kubica said.

There apparently is no industry standard for packing grocery bags, according to an official with the National Grocer's Association, a Virginia-based organization that operates an annual competition for grocery bagging.

"Bags tend to be underpacked," said NGA staffer Karen Vorhees.

In competition, baggers are judged on the speed in which they pack bags as well as weight distribution among the bags. Points are subtracted for broken bags.

In their lawsuit, the Sagers said Wal-Mart should have made sure their bag didn't break.

The store "failed to use two or three bags or whatever number of bags were necessary to accommodate the heavy items placed in said bag."

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