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A woman sued Coca-Cola after a vendor ran into her, but courts have found she lied about existing back injury

By Marian Johns | Mar 21, 2019

JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) – The Supreme Court of Mississippi has affirmed a lower court's decision to dismiss a woman's lawsuit against Coca-Cola Bottling Co. United and one of its vendors over alleged injuries she sustained after being struck by the vendor's cart.

The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled March 7 that the Circuit Court of Harrison County was within its discretion when it dismissed the plaintiff's case because of her discovery violation regarding her injuries.

According to the ruling, in August 2013, plaintiff Mary Edwards was struck by a cart that was operated by Coca-Cola vendor, Willie Lee Jr., while she was shopping at Walmart. After Edwards amended her original complaint to add Lee to the lawsuit, Coca-Cola admitted responsibility for Lee's actions but denied it was negligent. Walmart was later dismissed from the suit.  

Edwards claimed that while she "squatted" down on the floor to look at items on a lower shelf, Lee's cart struck her in the hip, and after standing up, claims she was hit a second time by the cart, the order states. Lee testified that he did feel the cart bump someone, but continued with his work because he did not believe "the collision had been a big one," the ruling states. He also claimed he failed to look to see if anyone was in the way before rotating the cart.

During the discovery process, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that Edwards' deposition testimony in which she stated she "never really had a back problem prior to the accident," was in conflict with her medical history and records, the order states. 

According to Edwards' medical records, she had previous medical issues with back pain from 2005 through 2007 and was even treated by a chiropractor at one point for bulging discs in her neck and back. Edwards was also diagnosed with degenerative joint disease, according to her medical records, which she authorized the defendants to obtain, the order states. 

Edwards then filed a reply to the defendants' motion to dismiss claiming she had "not willfully or intentionally violated discovery rules" and that she could not remember the "minor medical treatment" for her back pain more than a decade ago. 

 "The trial court found that Edwards’ false responses were a deliberate attempt to keep evidence from the court and to hide the truth" and the defendants were granted their motion to dismiss, the order states.

The Mississippi Supreme Court was tasked with deciding if the trial court's dismissal "as a sanction for a discovery violation was an abuse of discretion."

The court cited numerous case law in which sanctions were applied for discovery violations and in its opinion stated "...the trial court’s decision was among the reasonable decisions that could have been made based on the evidence. Therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by dismissing Edwards’ case."

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