I was already pleased with what this week had turned up even before I saw this story. A week that has unveiled not just a squirrel-assault lawsuit and a failure-to-warn-about-gravity case has now presented us with a new lawsuit in which an Orange County woman has sued the J.C. Penney Company alleging that she was assaulted by one of its mannequins.
I was going to write that this was the first case of dummy litigation I had come across, but it really isn’t. And there are others out there.
In her lawsuit, filed last month in Orange County Superior Court, Diana Newton alleges that she was shopping for a blouse in the women’s department (the natural habitat of blouses) of the Penney’s store at Westminster Mall. Ominously, the only remaining blouse in Newton’s size was on a mannequin lurking nearby. According to her lawsuit, as a salesclerk was removing the blouse, the mannequin’s arm “flew off” and struck Newton in the head. Newton claims to have “felt a burning sensation,” and was allegedly treated for scalp injuries and a cracked molar that required a root canal to fix. According to her attorney, she also suffers from “strange sensations in her hands.”
Why the mannequin may have lashed out at Newton, or whether it bore an adequate warning of possible dangers to the scalp, teeth, and hands, was not disclosed in the report. A spokeswoman for J.C. Penney declined to comment on the pending litigation. An executive at Mondo Mannequins in New York said that his company has been named in “numerous lawsuits,” typically being brought in by retailers who have been sued by customers for “dummy-related injuries.”
The Los Angeles Times reports that “mannequin maulings and litigation” are not new, nor are such cases always losers.
A Florida woman collected $175,000 in 1990 after a “faceless Macy’s dummy” fell onto her neck and allegedly injured a disc (the woman, not the dummy). In 1993, a Minnesota woman was knocked out by a “falling mannequin” at a Dayton’s department store, but with typical Midwestern restraint did not sue although her injury required stitches. In 2001, the Gap lost a lawsuit in British Columbia after one of its mannequins attacked a shopper in Vancouver. The jury awarded her $330,000, despite evidence (which probably was not admissible) that she had been hit by a falling chandelier in a different store a few years earlier.
But the best story of dummy-related litigation was from Indiana, where a woman sued the Red Cross a few years ago claiming that she had gotten herpes from a CPR training dummy. (I told you it has been a good week.) The main obstacle to the woman’s case appears to have been the fact that, as tests subsequently revealed, she did not have herpes.
J.C. Penney stock was down almost 1 percent this morning, although probably not on news of this lawsuit.