A jury has awarded an Anderson woman more than $4.6 million after she was stuck by a needle picked up in a Target parking lot.
Before Carla Denise Garrison’s lawsuit against Target Corp. went to trial, her lawyer offered to settle with the retailer for $12,000, but the offer was rejected. When the trial concluded Thursday, a jury determined that Garrison was entitled to well more than that. If the amount stands, it will be one of the largest awarded in the history of Anderson County litigation, according to Clerk of Court Richard Shirley.
Garrison, who goes by Denise, said Friday that she was “too overwhelmed” to talk about the case.
According to court documents, Garrison’s injury happened in May 2014 in the parking lot of a Target off Clemson Boulevard in Anderson.
Garrison had parked and gotten out of her vehicle when her then 8-year-old daughter, Kaileigh, picked up a hypodermic needle. Garrison swatted the needle out of her daughter’s hand. When she did that, the needle stuck her in her right palm, according to court documents.
Documents show that Garrison went into the store and reported the injury to a Target employee. That employee, Shelby Brintnall, noted in a report that Garrison “seemed worried.”
After her injury, Garrison was treated at AnMed Health, where she was tested for HIV and hepatitis. She was also prescribed medication because of the potential risk that she would contract HIV. She has tested negative for both HIV and hepatitis thus far, documents show.
According to court documents, the HIV drugs made Garrison sick and caused her to be bedridden. Garrison’s husband, Clint, had to take time off work to care for her, according to her attorney.
“When we started this, we were just trying to get Target to make my client whole, to pay for her medical bills and the time that her husband had to take off work,” said Garrison's attorney, Joshua Hawkins of Greenville. “We tried to be reasonable and not take this to trial. But Target took a really hard stance on it ... and I think the jury sent a message.”
South Carolina law outlines certain circumstances in which there is a cap placed on punitive damages. The damage amount awarded in this case could become an issue for further litigation.
Target spokeswoman Erika Winkels said the company disagrees with the outcome of the case.
"The final damages award has not yet been determined by the Court," she said in an email. "Target is currently considering post-trial motions and appeal options."
Winkels said Target makes customer safety a priority.
"Our guests are at the center of everything we do, and our commitment to creating a safe and secure shopping environment in our stores is unwavering," she said. "As a part this commitment to safety, we have robust procedures, policies and trainings in place to ensure that our stores are safe places to shop and work."
Court documents show that Garrison’s attorney offered to halt the case in February 2015 if Target Corp. agreed to a $12,000 judgment against the corporation. That same month, the company offered Garrison $750.
In court documents seeking summary judgment before the trial, Target’s lawyer, Knox Haynsworth III, argued that Garrison could not prove her case.
“A merchant is not an insurer of the safety of his customer but owes only the duty of exercising ordinary care to keep the premises in reasonably safe condition,” Haynsworth wrote, citing a case from 1969.
Haynsworth wrote that Garrison could not prove that Target placed the needle in its parking lot or that Target “was on actual or constructive notice” about the needle and failed to act.
Haynsworth, who is based in Greenville, declined to comment Friday.